Collectors Circle for Pre-1945 Painting

Monterey Museum of Art is excited to announce Collectors Circle – a series of interactive experiences offered to an exclusive group of passionate art supporters that provides critical funds for our exhibitions, programs, and permanent collection.

You are invited to join the Museum and consulting curator Susan Danly for a behind the scenes look at our winter exhibition Seeking Eden: James Fitzgerald in Monterey, on display at MMA Pacific Street January 13 through April 23. Learn about the master watercolorist’s life on the peninsula during an era that fostered other creatives on the precipice of greatness including John Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts. Following a private tour of the exhibition, the group will walk the historic path to Casa Abrego, a private social club dedicated to the preservation of Monterey’s historically significant adobes.  Participate in lively conversation with art historian and event chair Lila Thorsen while enjoying a luncheon courtesy of Chef Mario Perez.

Saturday, February 26, 2022
12:00 pm – 3:00 pm 
MMA Pacific Street, 559 Pacific Street, Monterey CA, 93940
For more information email

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About the Artist

James E. Fitzgerald (1899-1971) was born in Boston, MA. By the age of four, his artistic talents were recognized, and a studio space was created for him in his parent’s attic. As a child, he would visit his grandparent’s farm in Milton, MA, where he began a lifelong love of painting horses. After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps (1918-1919), he enrolled in the Massachusetts Normal Art School (later Massachusetts College of Art & Design, 1919-1923), and subsequently at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (1923-24). During semester break in 1923, he shipped aboard the Elizabeth Howard out of Gloucester, MA, initially to paint and sketch, but following a violent storm that left one sailor injured, he joined the crew and learned to jump into the dories for halibut fishing off the Grand Banks. In 1924 he made his first visit to Monhegan Island, ME.

In 1928, Fitzgerald sailed as an able bodied seaman on the Dorothy Luckenbach out of New York City, working his way to the West coast. Although he had intended to reach Alaska, his travels took him to Monterey, CA, where he settled, built a home/studio, and married. While in Monterey, he became a part of the circle of friends who gathered at the Cannery Row marine biology laboratory of Edward ‘Doc’ Ricketts. The group included John Steinbeck, Krishnamurti, Robinson Jeffers, John Cage and Joseph Campbell, among others. During this time, Fitzgerald’s interest in Eastern philosophy matured, and he brought to his art its principles, seeking to express the inner vitality or spiritual rhythm of his subjects.

Fitzgerald exhibited extensively in California during the 1930s, twice winning first prize for watercolors in statewide competitions. During those years, he made excursions from Monterey to Taos and the California mountains, and continued to travel east to paint on Monhegan, eventually deciding to settle there in 1943. Its remoteness led to the dissolution of his marriage, and Fitzgerald, who in the 1940s was represented by the Robert C. Vose Galleries, Boston, gradually withdrew from the commercial art world so to direct all his creative energies to painting.

Learn more by visiting the James Fitzgerald Legacy

This exhibition was made possible in collaboration with the Monhegan Museum of Art and History and the James Fitzgerald Legacy

Image credits:
James Fitzgerald (1899-1971), Shrimp Boats at Night, n.d., watercolor on paper, 20.25 x 26 in. (51.435 x 66.04 cm). Monterey Museum of Art. Gift of Anne M. Hubert, 1997.203. © James Fitzgerald Legacy, Monhegan Museum of Art and History

James Fitzgerald (1899-1971),September 1932 (Self Portrait), 1932, oil on canvas. © James Fitzgerald Legacy, Monhegan Museum of Art and History