Jorgensen Watercolors

Chris Jorgensen was born in Christiana, Norway in 1859. When he was ten he and his mother came to San Francisco and in 1874 he was the first pupil to receive a scholarship at the newly-opened California School of Fine Arts. He graduated, became an instructor there and married a student, Angela Ghirardelli. They had two children: Virgil and Aimee.

Jorgensen became a recognized landscape painter and the California Missions fascinated him. In 1903-04 he and his wife traveled the length of El Camino Real to study and paint the Missions. The resulting watercolors were shown at the Bohemian Club and many noted galleries throughout America, as well as a 1906 Washington, D.C. exhibition of these and other watercolors of the Yosemite Valley (now hanging in the Yosemite National Park Museum).

Chris Jorgensen lived to the age of seventy five. His son Virgil donated the 1903-04 watercolors to a permanent collection to be housed and preserved at the Sonoma Mission.

Those watercolors now hang in what used to be the Mission dining room. They are kept in subdued lighting which helps preserve them but makes photography difficult as no flash is allowed. The images shown on these pages are heavily edited from dark originals and, as such, are only a faint representation of the originals which must be seen in person to truly appreciate. In editing I also did not include the frames for display here as many had reflections and other defects that would have taken away from the watercolors themselves.

The pictures are organized from South to North and not all Missions are represented in the sixty pictures on display.

Note: The pictures are mostly from a 2012 trip to the mission. There are four from an earlier, 2003, trip as these, for some reason, were not in the display in 2012 and one from 2012 which was not on display in 2003 (total of 61 here). When you click on any of the images on a page an enlarged version will appear in a lightbox. From the lightbox you can also start a slideshow that takes you through all the pictures on that page. With that, let’s get started…

San Diego Missions (San Diego de Alcalá, Santa Ysabel Asistencia)

  • Mission San Diego: The first painting looks to the front of the mission but the following paintings show that it’s basically just a standing shell in the early 1900’s…
2012 San Diego #1

2012 San Diego #1

2012 San Diego #2

2012 San Diego #2

2012 San Diego #3

2012 San Diego #3

  • Santa Ysabel Asistencia: The Asistencia for the San Diego mission fared no better. It’s little more than some reeds and a bell standing in lots of vacant land…
2012 Santa Ysabel #1

2012 Santa Ysabel #1

2012 Santa Ysabel #2

2012 Santa Ysabel #2

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