Francis McComas (painter)

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Francis McComas
Francis John McComas.jpg
Born October 1, 1875
Fingal, Tasmania, Australia
Died December 27, 1938
Pebble Beach, California, U.S.

Francis McComas (1875–1938) was an Australian-born artist who spent most of his adult life in California, receiving some national recognition. He was one of the few California artists invited to exhibit in the 1913 International Exhibition of Modern Art in New York.[1]


Francis John McComas was born in Fingal, a small town in a valley of the same name in north east Tasmania.[2]

He studied art at the Sydney Technical College and the Sydney Art School. After visits to Hawaii and the Monterey, California Peninsula he exhibited 39 watercolors in February 1899 at the W. K. Vickery, Atkins & Torrey Gallery in San Francisco.[3] This was the start of a brilliant career. He briefly settled in Alameda before embarking that fall on a trip across the United States, including an exhibition in Chicago, and eventually to France, where he studied at the Académie Julian.[4][5] He returned in December 1901 to the Monterey Peninsula, where he established a studio, but spent much of his time in the San Francisco Bay Area exhibiting and fraternizing with the local artists. He married the wealthy Marie Louise Parrott on June 28, 1905.[6] In addition to his regular venues in northern California, which included Vickery’s, the San Francisco Bohemian Club and Monterey’s Hotel Del Monte, he exhibited in Los Angeles, Boston and New York City, and contributed to shows at the Berkeley, California art colony in 1906 and 1909.[7] He returned to Europe on a grand tour in 1907-08, which included a meeting with the king of Greece, and exhibited his California scenes at London’s Obach Gallery and Carfax Gallery to positive reviews in the London Times.[8][9]

In 1913 he exhibited watercolors in the famous Armory Show in New York City. In 1915 he served on the hanging committee and jury of awards at San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition, where he displayed 10 watercolors in the Arthur Mathews gallery.[7] His extremely problematic marriage ended in divorce in 1916, with the scandalous details published in the national press.[10][11] The following year witnessed important changes in his career. He began to deemphasize watercolors in favor of mural commissions in oil for the homes of wealthy Californians. On October 30, 1917 he married the young artist Gene (Eugenia) Francis Baker; the couple initially lived in Monterey before building their dream home in the neighboring and rather exclusive enclave of Pebble Beach.[12] Between 1918 and 1921 he won awards at the Philadelphia Water Color Club, American Water Color Society (New York), and Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.[7] In 1923 he was hired by Cecil B. DeMille to design the sets for the Biblical epic, The Ten Commandments.[13] Criticism of his Cubist-inspired submissions to a San Francisco exhibition may have led to his departure from the Bay Area art scene. By the mid-1920s McComas almost abandoned painting to consort with the idle wealthy of the Monterey Peninsula.

In the early-to-mid 1930s he reemerged as a serious artist with several exhibitions of new works, some of which were inspired by recent trips to Mexico and his meetings with Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco.[14] His two enormous “charcoal murals with a background of Capagold” for a department store in San Francisco received national praise.[15] In 1936 he had a heart attack while visiting China. He died on December 27, 1938 in his Pebble Beach home.[7]


  1. ^ "Francis John McCabe". Trotter Galleries. Retrieved 19 October 2010. 
  2. ^ "Francis McComas". William Karges Fine Art. Retrieved 19 October 2010. 
  3. ^ San Francisco Call, 12 February 1899, p. 22.
  4. ^ Alameda Daily Argus, 6 December 1899, p. 1.
  5. ^ San Francisco Chronicle: 17 September 1899, p.24; 5 August 1900, p. 12.
  6. ^ San Francisco Call, 25 June 1905, p. 20; 29 June 1905, p.1.
  7. ^ a b c d Edwards, Robert W. (2012). Jennie V. Cannon: The Untold History of the Carmel and Berkeley Art Colonies, Vol. 1. Oakland, Calif.: East Bay Heritage Project. pp. 251, 265, 507–512. ISBN 9781467545679.  An online facsimile of the entire text of Vol. 1 is posted on the Traditional Fine Arts Organization website (
  8. ^ San Francisco Call: 19 February 1907, p.8; 28 October 1907, p.7; 18 November 1907, p.7.
  9. ^ The Oakland Tribune, 3 April 1908, p.1.
  10. ^ Los Angeles Times, 6 October 1916, p. I.4.
  11. ^ The Washington (D.C.) Post, 22 October 1916, p.11.
  12. ^ San Francisco Examiner, 31 October 1917, p. 11.
  13. ^ Los Angeles Times, 26 May 1923, p. I.6.
  14. ^ San Francisco Chronicle, 21 November 1935, p.17; 24 November 1935, p.5-D.
  15. ^ The San Francisco News, 14 November 1936, p.16.