Collections Spotlight: Spring in California, 1903, John Marshall Gamble

May 12, 2023

Eric Stanley, Associate Director and History Curator

Spring in California, 1903, John Marshall Gamble, oil on canvas, Gift of Eugene and Barbara Toschi


John Marshall Gamble was born in Morristown, New Jersey on November 25, 1863. When he was a teenager, he moved with his family to Auckland, New Zealand. Gamble contributed significantly to the early California art scene. His paintings of lush hillsides decorated with vibrant lupines, poppies, mustard, lilacs, sage, and buckwheat have come to symbolize a bucolic picture of the California landscape at the turn of the century.

At age 20, Gamble traveled to San Francisco, where he began his art training at the San Francisco School of Design, but, in 1890, he left San Francisco to pursue portrait and figure studies in Paris.

In 1893, Gamble returned to San Francisco. Well versed in both American and European traditions, he opened a studio and embarked on a career as a professional artist. For over thirteen years, he maintained national popularity and a modest income as a painter of wildflowers. He regularly had works on display at the San Francisco Art Association as well as the Philadelphia Art Club and the American Watercolor Society in New York City.

On April 16, 1906, Gamble’s career hit a turning point with the massive San Francisco earthquake and the resulting fires. Although Gamble was unharmed, his studio completely burned to the ground, including all of its contents. According to his inventory, only three paintings that were out on loan to an art dealer survived.

For several years, Gamble had been making annual sketching trips to Southern California. With no studio or inventory left in San Francisco, he ultimately decided to move to Los Angeles, During his trip south, Gamble made a fateful stop in Santa Barbara on Christmas Eve. Astonished by the beauty of the region and its Mediterranean climate, he altered his arrangements and settled permanently in the “American Riviera.”

By the 1920s, he was enjoying national success and even became known as the “Dean of Santa Barbara Artists.” In 1929, he joined the faculty of the Santa Barbara School of the Arts as teacher of advanced landscape and sketching. In his later years, his eyesight began to fail, forcing him to paint less often and postpone his annual sketching trips. On April 7, 1957, he died from a brief illness at the age of 93.


"Spring in California" was most recently shown in the 2020 exhibition, Landscape: Awe to Activism.

Explore the exhibition through 360° imaging! Enjoy close-up views of the artworks, a video tour, and more from the gallery exhibition.

This virtual experience is generously provided by Steve Vargas, VARGAS XR "Mind Over Matter"




The Museum of Sonoma County maintains a permanent collection of over 18,000 objects, documenting the region's rich history and celebrating local artists.

More About MSC's Collection:

Museum of Sonoma County
475 Seventh Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
(707) 579-1500

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The mission of the Museum of Sonoma County is to engage and inspire our diverse community with art and history exhibitions, collections, and public programs that are inclusive, educational, and relevant.