Artistic Development: Study in Los Angeles, 1907-1915

Three Rectangles    / Oil on Board / 16.375 x 10.875 in.

Three Rectangles  / Oil on Board / 16.375 x 10.875 in.

Although Los Angeles provided limited opportunities for artists at that time, it did provide sunshine, varied landscapes, and the Pacific coastline. Seeking to stay in Los Angeles and make a living, Conrad Buff cleverly combined his skills in house painting, drawing, and pattern making. While painting a living room in Eagle Rock, he incorporated a handmade stencil pattern of grapes. From that day, he experimented with stencil designs and color combinations to create unique, decorative spaces. Through his house painting venture, Buff became self-supporting for the first time and purchased land for a home in Eagle Rock. Although busy with work, Buff made time for easel painting, never losing sight of his goal to become a full-time artist. At this point in his career, Buff knew that he needed to further his art education.
Between 1910 and 1913 he attended the Art Students League in Los Angeles and learned certain painting techniques of the local Impressionists.  He didn't stay long however, due to frustration with one instructor who regularly redrew and repainted students’ canvases according to his own ideas. Buff resented the restrictions there and as he had done with previous unsatisfactory jobs, opted to leave.

Soon after, Buff took evening classes at the Los Angeles High School with William A. Paxton. During this time, Buff painted an oil series where he experimented with brilliantly colored patterns and shapes. Prior to the advent of abstract art, Buff believed a painting’s foundation lay in how an artist arranged color and area.

In his early work, Conrad Buff never specifically adhered to a formal art school or movement. His primary inspirations were drawn from his love of color, architectural planning, and house painting. By 1915, he did begin to incorporate some aspects of California Impressionism. California Impressionism was the dominant style when Buff arrived in Los Angeles, and its influence was hard to miss. It was a regional variation of American Impressionism which found its roots with late-nineteenth century French artists whose loose brushwork and vivid colors revolutionized the art scene. Buff’s own work shared with California Impressionism an interest in direct observation and naturalistic landscapes.