A Surprising Find from the Whitaker Photo Archives

There are times when an image crosses your desk, and it captures your attention, despite its rather ordinary composition. In this instance, that image arrived in the form of a small photo depicting an artist standing at the edge of a cliff, looking rather pleased with himself as he grasps the familiar leg of an easel holding his plein air painting. There was nothing particularly striking about the photo itself, and at this first meeting, I merely logged it as interesting, but moved on to other pressing matters. It was the second time the photograph caught my eye, as I was perusing the Whitaker image archives, that I felt compelled to pass it along to the Foundation board, along with a query asking if anyone knew the gentleman in the photo, or could provide any contextual information about why this image might appear in the Whitaker photo archives.

0419_Roy Mason friend of Whitakers_SMAs it so happens, this smiling gentleman, clad in a jaunty angled fedora, was none other than famous watercolor artist Roy Mason. Roy and his wife Lena were longtime friends of the Whitakers, who they met in 1940s while both couples resided in New York. When the Masons moved to La Jolla, CA in the early 1960s, it would be a combination of their warm influence and the enchanting culture and climate of La Jolla, which would persuade Fred and Eileen to join their friends by moving to the area in 1965. Over the coming decades, the friendship between the Masons and Whitakers would continue to grow as both couples flourished within the elite artist community of La Jolla and San Diego. Fred and Roy’s paintings were even featured alongside each other in the late 1960s as part of a group exhibition celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the La Jolla Art Association. 

In Roy and Lena, Fred and Eileen found kindred artistic souls, as reflected by the words of Eileen Monaghan Whitaker in the book Contrasts that Complement, where she remarks that

“It was natural to fall in love with Roy the instant you met him – everyone did…Roy was a bright man with broad interests, and a fine painter as well! There was never a more attractive couple than Roy and Lena. It was wonderful for us to have the Masons, such good friends and stimulating people, so close.” (Jennings, 53)

Whether it was hosting a social gathering for the arts, exchanging advice, introducing one another to collectors and patrons, or inspiring each other to continue to refine their skills and achieve new heights of personal and professional success, the legacy of the unique, decades long friendship between the Whitakers and Masons would be the enrichment of both their contemporary artistic community, as well as future generations of watercolor artists.

Honoring Fred Whitaker, NA

Frederic Whitaker, N. A.

Born January 9th, 1891

Frederic Whitaker (1891-1980) was the recipient of more than 150 awards for his representational watercolors. He was an Academician in the National Academy of Design and served as president of the American Watercolor Society from 1949-1956, revamping its format to involve more member participation and upgrading the status of annual exhibitions. In 1943, he organized Audubon Artists, Inc., an art society designed to represent all voices in the visual arts. He served as officer/board member of many other national and regional art societies and was listed in a number of issues of Who’s Who.

A nationally recognized author, Frederic Whitaker is often referred to as “Mr. Watercolor,” an unofficial title honoring both his award-winning paintings and his years of service to the cause of watercolor and watercolor painters. He exhibited widely and his paintings are in major museums nationwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Frederic Whitaker was born in Providence, R.I., Jan. 9, 1891. He left school at age 14 to go to work at the W. J. Feeley Co., manufacturer of ecclesiastical metalware, where he started as an apprentice to the designer at age 16. By age 23, Whitaker was head of design at Feeley. He then worked as a designer at Gorham, Tiffany, the Mangan Company which he co-owned, and finally with two companies he bought and built up, Foley and Dugan in Providence and the G. H. Seffert Company in New York, both dealing in phases of design, manufacture, and distribution of religious goods. During this time he painted watercolors, actively participated in art societies, and entered competitive exhibitions.

In addition to his painting and leadership contributions in the visual arts, Whitaker wrote two books on watercolor, “Whitaker on Watercolor” and “A Guide to Painting Better Pictures”, and a third, “The Artist and the Real World,” random reflections on the art world. He wrote more than 90 articles on artists for American Artist magazine, and was a contributor to The Artist of London and Today’s Art, New York. Frederic Whitaker is the subject of two biographies, Frederic Whitaker, by artist/author Janice Lovoos and Contrasts That Complement by Jan Noreus Jennings. Frederic Whitaker

Frederic Whitaker’s extensive accomplishments were honored when he was awarded the prestigious Horatio Alger Award given to persons who have risen from humble beginnings to make exceptional contributions to society through “individual initiative, hard work, honesty, and adherence to traditional ideals.”