Seideneck Art Collection
A sizable collection of art and artifacts by a pair of Carmel art-colony pioneers has made its way back to the Peninsula through the generous gift of their niece, who inherited the pieces.
The works by George and Catherine Seideneck have become part of the collection at Community Hospital, which has incorporated art into the healing process since its earliest days.
The Seidenecks were key figures in helping establish Carmel as an early, admired arts community. George grew up in Chicago, where he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, then he went on to train in Europe for two years before returning to teach at his alma mater. Nearly four years later, during a trip to California, he discovered Carmel and made it his home.
There, in the art enclave by the sea, he met Catherine Comstock, also a Chicago-born Art Institute-trained painter. She studied further at Elbert Hubbard’s Roycroft Community in East Aurora, New York, where she became entrenched in the Arts and Crafts Movement.
Although Catherine’s family settled in Santa Rosa, they summered in Carmel. Her brother Hugh Comstock became renowned for designing "Comstocks" (also known as "doll houses"), such as the Tuck Box restaurant in Carmel, as well as for his later post-adobe construction style.
Catherine and George met in Carmel, married in 1920, then spent more than two years traveling throughout Europe. They returned and made Carmel their home, establishing studios in the Seven Arts Building and becoming prominent members of the local arts community.
In 1927, the couple attended a now-legendary meeting to establish an association for "the advancement of art and cooperation among artists." The two became charter members of the Carmel Art Association, and Catherine’s mother, artist Nellie Hurd Comstock, became its first patron.
Barbara Matthew Meyer felt Carmel would be the right fit for the artwork left to her by her aunt and uncle, Catherine Comstock Seideneck and George Seideneck. Meyer spent summers with the couple in Carmel and lived there for a time, developing her own artistic talents. She died earlier this year.
"The Seideneck collection reminds me what a prolific and accomplished artisan Catherine was," says Susan Klusmire, executive director of the Carmel Art Association. "As founding members of the Carmel Art Association, both were known as enthusiastic, active members of the Carmel arts and crafts community."
Although George earned an early reputation as a portrait painter, his focus shifted to landscapes before he all but abandoned painting in favor of photography. He became an integral part of the Carmel Camera Club, whose members included such luminaries as Ansel Adams and Edward Weston.
"Catherine was an excellent oil painter but made a name for herself by working in an oil wash, which created a translucency much like watercolors in her landscape work," says Terry Trotter, who plans an exhibition of the sizable collection of the Seidenecks’ work he has accumulated at his galleries in Carmel and Pacific Grove. "She was primarily known for her coastal scenes of the Monterey Peninsula as well as (paintings of) Carmel Valley, where the couple eventually built their home."
Following their passing — she in 1967 and he in 1972 — a sizable portion of their work was left to Catherine’s niece, Barbara Matthew Meyer. An established watercolor painter in her own right, Meyer, at 89, made her home in Washington state. As her life advanced, Meyer began looking for a permanent home for the artwork. She turned to longtime friend and neighbor Donna Huggins and her husband Chuck, art collectors who understood her wishes, the Seideneck story, and the Carmel connection.
"And so began the saga," says Donna Huggins. "Through Margaret and Richard Mayer — he is an artist and guiding light behind the Arts Habitat on the former Fort Ord property — I met Community Hospital’s art curator, Amy Essick. She was so excited. She understood it, she wanted it. This is just the kind of response you want to get from someone to whom you’re giving something very special."
Through a classic Carmel art community effort, the Seideneck collection has returned to the Peninsula. Pieces will be exhibited in areas that have recently undergone renovation, including the Main Pavilion inpatient unit.
"I know Donna and Chuck interviewed other worthy institutions about this artwork," says Essick, "and we are pleased and proud to have been chosen to receive it. The collection includes a lot of coastal landscapes and valley scenes. It was Barbara’s hope that it would open our eyes to the beauty that surrounds us and inspire us to take notice."
A History of art and healing
Community Hospital has always made art an integral part of its design and environment. The art is donated or paid for through donations, much of it from an endowment given by the late Maurine Church Coburn . Coburn had a long history of philanthropy, much of it benefiting Community Hospital. Her husband, Samuel F.B. Morse, donated the 22 acres on which the hospital sits.