Francis McComas: Rediscovering California’s First Modernist

Now extended online through April 22, 2021

An influential artist once rated “among the twenty best painters of the world,” Francis McComas (1874 – 1938) is one of art history’s greatest lost treasures. While his name is less familiar than Pollock or Monet, there was a time, not so long ago, when McComas was among the most famous artists on Earth. Newspapers from San Francisco, New York, Paris and London celebrated his unique genius. A boxer, a dancer, and a drinker, he was a brazen man renowned for his charm and acerbic wit, and counted among his personal friends Jack London, William Keith, and Charlie Chaplain. Princes and presidents alike sought him out, eager to meet the bon vivant Tasmanian whose triumphs spread through the art world like wildfire.

View Virtual Exhibition

Francis McComas: Rediscovering California’s First Modernist, guest curated by Robert J. Pierce for the Monterey Museum of Art, will be the artist’s first retrospective since his 1939 memorial exhibition at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor. With an emphasis on his larger, later, most modern works, this exhibition will tell McComas’ story through an examination of his strongest paintings and a selection of never before-seen personal photos. The show will explore his ever-changing style, told against the backdrop of California’s evolving art world. This exhibition will present a twenty-first century look at this historic artist, correct errors and omissions in the historical record, and help to return him to his place as one of America’s most significant painters. Eighty years after his death, Mc Comas’ story has languished for too long. Truly, now is the time to tell it, or risk losing it forever.


Please feel free to browse suggested sources for additional reading on Francis McComas provided by guest curator Robert Pierce.

Additional Sources

NEW! Join Gallerist Terry Trotter and Art Historian Kent Seavey as they explore the world that inspired California Artist Francis McComas


Thank you to our sponsors!

Susan DuCoeur, Joel Garzoli of Joel B. Garzoli Fine Art, San Francisco and Jeff Chambers & Andi Okamura

Image: Francis Mc Comas (1874-1938), Monterey Cypress, n.d., oil on canvas, 36 x 75 inches. Private Collection. Courtesy Josh Hardy Galleries LLC.