August Gay

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c. 1928
Oil on Board
36 x 46 1/2 inches

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August Gay was born in Rabou, France on June 11, 1890 and was one of five children. Gay immigrated with his father and his siblings to live in Alameda, California in the early 1900s. His mother stayed behind in France and it would be the last time that August would see her. Gay moved in with artist Selden Gile in 1910 to Oakland, California. Influenced by Gile, the two artists were to be the first of a group that is now known as the Society of Six. Having had minimal experience in painting, he attended occasional classes at the California School of Arts and Crafts and later in 1918 and 1919, enrolled in night school at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco. During this period, Gay's interest in structure and design was fundamental and his colorist tendencies became apparent later.

In 1919, Gay moved to Monterey Peninsula, which had long been an area of artistic activity in Northern California. While still an active member of the Society of Six and regularly exhibiting at the Oakland Art Gallery, Gay supported himself in the beginning by working at a local fish factory and at Oliver's Frame Shop. Shortly after moving to Monterey Peninsula, he met Clayton S. Price, a man who would be destined to become an important West Coast artist in the 1930s and 1940s. Together, Gay and Price lived at the Stevenson House. Living next to them was Armin Hansen, another Californian artist that had influenced many other painters living in Monterey. Gay studied with Hansen for about two years in informal outdoor classes around the 1920s, but eventually Gay's works would become more modern and would extend beyond the Impressionistic style.

In the mid 1920s, Gay began to pursue a career as a woodworker. He was carving full-time by 1929 and stopped painting completely. During the Depression in the 1930s, through government supported arts programs, Gay began to paint again, but mostly on various murals in the West Coast. During this period, he continued his woodworking projects. In 1934, he married Marcelle Chaix. They lived together at the Stevenson house, but eventually moved out in 1941 when Gay built his own house in Carmel. He died on March 9, 1948. While many of his works were painted on cigar top boxes, August did not receive national recognition until the 1950s.

Exhibited: San Francisco Art Association, 1916, 1912; Del Monte Art Gallery, Monterey, 1919; Galerie Beaux Arts, San Francisco, 1929; San Francisco Museum of Art, 1935; Oakland Museum, 1972, 1981.

Works Held: State Museum Resource Center, Sacramento; Oakland Museum; Pacific Grove High School (mural) Monterey Peninsula Museum.


Boas, Nancy. Society of Six. Print. Hughes, Edan M. Artists In California 1786-1940. 3rd ed. Vol. 1. Sacramento: Crocker, Art Museum, 2002. N. pag. 2 vols. Print.