Fig. 1: Guy Rose (1867–1925), Owens River, Sierra Nevada, California, n.d. Oil on canvas, 34 x 40 inches. Signed lower right. This painting holds the current auction record of $1,920,000, sold November 30, 2005, lot 181 at Sotheby’s New York. Image courtesy Sotheby’s, New York.


One of California’s most significant painters, Guy Orland Rose is known for his role in the development of impressionism in his native state. Spending much of his training and early career on the East Coast and abroad in France, Rose brought a European sensitivity to his landscapes of Southern California that won him wide acclaim and did much to popularize plein air painting in the American west.

Fig. 2: Guy Rose (1867–1925), Early Morning Summertime, n.d. Oil on canvas, 29 x 24 inches. Signed. Sold June 19, 2001, lot 33, for $1,210,000 at John Moran Auctioneers. This was the first time at auction that a work by Rose sold for over one million dollars. Image courtesy of John Moran Auctioneers, Altadena, California

Fig. 3: Guy Rose (1867–1925), The Model,1921. Oil on canvas, 24 x 20 inches. Sold April 28, 2004, lot 9, for $959,500. Courtesy of Christie’s, Los Angeles, California.

Rose was the seventh child of Leonard John Rose, a prosperous senator whose ranch and vineyard comprised much of San Gabriel, California. When he was nine years old, Rose was shot in a hunting accident, and spent his convalescence drawing and painting. After graduating from Los Angeles High School, where his artistic talent was encouraged, he became a pupil of Emil Carlsen (1848–1932) and Virgil Williams (1830–1886) at the California School of Design in San Francisco. Rose made his way to Paris, enrolling in 1888 at the Académie Julian. His life drawing skills flourished under the tutelage of Benjamin-Constant (1845–1902), Jules Lefebvre (1836–1911), Henri Lucien Doucet (1856–1895), and Jean-Paul Laurens (1838–1921). Here he earned a number of awards, including a medal for his figural paintings at the 1894 Salon, where he made his debut.

During the 1890s, Rose, like many of his fellow American artists, shuttled between France and New York, where he drew illustrations for Harper’s,Scribner’s and Century magazines. Rose had discovered Giverny in 1889, and it was to this rural community that he was continually drawn, so much so that in 1904 he and his wife, Ethel, bought a cottage there and he became part of the small American art colony. Rose, like a number of American painters was influenced by Monet, who was also painting in Giverny. Unlike most of the artists who lived there, Rose established a friendship with Monet, who acted as his mentor. Later in his career Rose would emulate Monet by painting multiple versions of the same scene at different times of the day.

Guy Rose (1867–1925), Notre Dame de Grasse, Honfleur, France, ca. 1910. Oil on canvas, 23-7/8 x 28 inches. Signed lower right. Courtesy of Spanierman Gallery, LLC, New York.

Guy Rose (1867–1925), Dunes and Hill, Carmel, dated 1918. Oil on canvas, 15 x 18 inches. Priced at $345,000. Courtesy Redfern Gallery, Laguna Beach, California.

Guy Rose (1867–1925), Lake Arrowhead, n.d. Oil on board 12 x 6 inches. Priced at $125,000. Photograph courtesy of DeRu's Fine Arts, Bellflower and Laguna Beach, California.

In 1910, Rose and fellow members of the Giverny colony, Alson Skinner Clark (1876–1949), Frederick Frieseke (1874–1939), Edmund Greacen (1877–1949), Richard Miller (1875–1943), and Lawton Parker (1868–1954), together exhibited impressionist works in New York City, where they were dubbed “The Giverny Luminists” or “Giverny Group.” By 1912 Rose had returned permanently to the States and was teaching at the Pratt Institute in New York. Two years later he moved back to California, where he became director of the Stickney Memorial School of Art in Pasadena. One of California’s leading impressionists, Rose was a member of the California Art Club, Ten Painters of Los Angeles, and the Painters & Sculptors of Los Angeles. He held one-man shows at the Los Angeles Museum in 1916, 1918, and in 1919.

Rose was a significant force in impressionism’s westward expansion. This style, which previously manifested itself in Boston and New York in the work of John Singer Sargent (1856–1925), Mary Cassatt (1844–1926), and Childe Hassam (1859–1935), spread to Cincinnati through the influence of John Twachtman (1853–1902) and Frank Duveneck (1848–1919) and to St. Louis via Richard Miller. Along with Rose, artists such as Frieseke, Parker, and Karl Anderson (1874–1956) did much to promote impressionism as a successful lens through which to capture California’s singular natural beauty. A significant milestone in the development of California impressionism was the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition held in San Francisco, where Rose and his friend Frieseke — both of whom won medals — were hailed as stars alongside Hassam and William Merritt Chase (1849–1916). Throughout his later career, Rose struggled with the effects of lead poisoning contracted in Greece, which for decades took its toll on his mobility. Despite his poor health, which worsened after he suffered a stroke in 1921, Rose continued to paint until his death, in Pasadena, in 1925.

His role as a catalyst is one reason Rose has been the focus of recent scholarly and market attention. In assessing the near-term prospects of Rose’s auction values, it is important to recognize that Rose was no mere epigone of late-blooming impressionism. Connoisseurs recognize his first-tier standing in part because he was among the closest of Monet’s protégés and for his consumate skills. In late 1977, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art sold three Rose paintings at Sotheby’s, New York, for less than $6,000 each. One of the paintings, A Gray Day, Carmel, circa 1916, sold again privately in the late 1990s for over $1 million.1 At auction, the million dollar ceiling was topped in 2001, with the sale of Early Morning Summertime (n. d.) for $1,210,000 at John Moran Auctioneers (Fig. 2). The auction record stands at $1.92 million, commanded at Sotheby’s in November 2005 for Owens River, Sierra Nevada (n.d.) (Fig. 1). The same year, Christie’s sold another landscape, La Grosse Pierre, Giverny (1910), for $880,000, and a year earlier, they sold a major figural work, The Model (1919), for $959,500 (Fig. 3). The prices for Early Morning Summertime and The Model indicate that interest in Rose’s work extends beyond the landscapes for which he is best known.

The biggest problem with the Rose market is finding paintings. Even in the best years, only a small number are ever available. Explaining the dearth of Rose works on the market, dealer Ray Redfern of Redfern Gallery in Leguna Beach, California, says, “At the turn of the century the majority of his works were sold in the price ranges of $300,000 to $1.5 million; therefore they went into exclusive homes and will not have a high turnover rate. Less than eighty works have been available on the open market in the last thirty-two years.” Gavin Spanierman of Spanierman Galleries, New York, adds, “The market for a good quality Rose is always at a premium.”

California’s Irvine Museum is a good starting point to learn more about Rose’s work (the museum is presently compiling a catalogue raisonné of his paintings). His paintings are also in the collections of the Laguna Art Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Oakland Museum of California, and Pasadena Art Institute, as well as institutions beyond the Golden State.

Charles A. Riley II is a cultural historian and professor at City University of New York.