California Styles of the Artist and Educator
Frequently Asked Questions...
Here are a few FAQs, some initiated though questions posted via our Contact Form. Feel free to submit a question... we'll see if we have answers!
Q: What is Darwin's middle name? All we ever see is "B." or "B".
A: Darwin had no middle name - only the letter "B" (no period).
Q: Why the slash after his signature on his paintings?
A: Early-on, Darwin would sometimes indicate the year (example "/33") after his signature, or indicate his membership in the CWS or AWS with those initials. The slash stayed as a style element even after he established his code/numbering system.
Q: Did Darwin Musselman ever sign any of his late watercolors as just Musselman?
A: It is doubtful. A quick survey of watercolors at hand showed that they all not only have his first and last name in pencil in the front, but they also include the title on the line above or below, within quote marks, typically in all caps, not cursive. Several also include the /AWS/NWS designation.
Q: What does the coding on the back of his paintings represent?
A: In the example here taken from a John Moran Auctioneers catalog, the code O-60-2 represents "Oil Painting, 1960, work #2 of that year." An ET-78-12 would mean Egg Tempera, 1978, and the 12th work of that year, regardless of medium. WC = water-color, D = drawing, S = Serigraph, etc.
Especially from the mid '70's through the mid '90s, Musselman worked on some private studies of the masters: Gauguin, Speicher, Boucher, Renoir, El Greco, Ver Meer, etc. These studies were coded with the letters "CO" for copy.
Q: I have a Musselman painting handed down to me from my parents estate; what is it worth?
A: As with any market, an object is worth what the market will bear. This Musselman painting from a private Dallas collector sold in June 2009 around the high estimate.
Q: I saw a Musselman painting featured in a recent catalog for a California and American Paintings Auction facilitated by John Moran Auctioneers of Pasadena/ Altadena, CA. Are his paintings frequently found at auction?
A: On occasion, a Musselman painting will be found at auction, often from an estate of a private investor. The October 13, 2009 auction to which you refer is the first time paintings directly from the estate of Darwin Musselman have been made available. Many of the paintings held in trust were personal favorites of the artist, and were not previously made available to the public. A Musselman painting sold in 2014 at auction above its high estimate.
The June 15, 2010 auction at John Moran Auctioneers included the successful sale of a 1962 oil painting of Bodie from a private San Clemente collection. In 2014, the painting was once again sold at John Moran's auction for a 20% appreciation.
Q: I see in the self portraits that Musselman is painting with his left hand. Was he left-handed?
A: True to tradition, Musselman composed and executed his self portraits as a mirror-image, the way self-portaits had been done for centuries before. Due to the mirror image, although it may look like Musselman painted with his left hand, that hand (in a mirror) is actually his right. Musselman was right-handed.
Q: Did Musselman paint "en plein aire", in studio from his sketch-books, or from photographs?
A: Yes, all three. Musselman had a darkroom in at least 3 of his homes (Fresno & Los Osos), which he would use to enlarge the detail from the carefully composed photographs he would take. Often, a scene would be a composite of real and/or imagined subjects. For his trompe l'oeil paintings, he would assemble and arrange a still life on an easel, next to his painting easel or drafting table, where he would spend hours painting the finest of detail.
The example below compares the same subject from a recent photograph, and Musselman's 1972 Egg Tempera - "Mrs. Miller's Rooming House" in the California ghost town of Bodie.