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Paintings Were Not Always On Canvas

Most paintings found in antique shops are on canvas. There are other background surfaces, however, and they can be quite appealing.

Small paintings on copper were often school repetitions of work by the master painters of an era. Students were put to work learning by rote, copying the pieces the instructors found. They are not great works of art, but are quite appealing.

In the Renaissance, painters worked on wood panels. So did artists of the 18th and 19th centuries, although it usually turns out that what they were painting in these years was a sign, a part of a piece of furniture or the panelling from a wall, rather than choosing to use wood as the foundation for a freestanding painting. These paintings, too, were often a copy of an original by a well-known painter.

Painting on glass was also popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. The most frequent technique was to rub a print on to the back of the glass and rub away the paper. This hopefully left behind an outline that could be filled in with paint -- sort of an early paint-by-number process. A simpler process that was sometimes used was to stencil an image on the back side of the glass. This worked well when a bold design with little detail was being painted.

Some of these paintings have considerable value in their own right as examples of folk art, even though the picture is a copy of an earlier original.

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Ole Hanson Made His Presence Known From
Seattle To San Clemente

The rooms of Casa Romantica open off a central courtyard.
The rooms of Casa Romantica open off a central courtyard.

Ole Hanson, the son of Norwegian immigrants, was born in a log cabin in Wisconsin in 1874. He was a smart young fellow, and while he worked as a tailor during the day, he studied law in the evenings. Although he passed the bar at the age of 19, he decided against practicing it. Instead, he headed west and became a real estate developer in Washington.

From the west window looking on the Pacific Ocean
From the windows on the west side, the Hansons, along with visitors today, have a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean.

In 1912, he became a co-founder of Lake Forest Park, now part of Seattle, which was a planned community for professionals. But he was also interested in politics, and in 1918, Ole was elected mayor of Seattle.

It was during his term of office that the 1919 Seattle General Strike occurred. He garnered nationwide attention as a promoter of law and order, by claiming that he was responsible for breaking the three-day general strike that shut down the city. (It remains questionable how much his influence really had on the outcome.) However, he was sufficiently active in the process to make him a target of an assassination attempt in 1919, when anarchists mailed booby-trap bombs to several prominent national figures.

Tile work at Casa Romantica
The tile work throughout the house is representative of the amazing ceramic work being done in southern California in the early 20th century.

That seemed to sour Hanson’s zeal for politics and he resigned in August of 1919. He next made use of his national recognition and views on law and order, and against communism, by hitting the lecture circuit, which proved to be quite profitable, and in a short time he was making several times the earnings he made as mayor of Seattle. His national fame only lasted about a year, and then he faded from the public consciousness.

Monarch Butterfly Garden
The gardens are a stopping place for the Monarch butterflies.

But Ole still had his taste for real estate development. His next project was to build the town of San Clemente in southern California.

In 1925, he purchased 2,000 acres of coastal property, five miles long and one half mile wide, in southern Orange County between Los Angeles and San Diego. A clause was put in to the 400 lots he sold, requiring that building plans be submitted to a review board and that these plans showed adherence to the Spanish Colonial Revival style – white stucco walls and red tile roofs were the standard. About 200 of these homes remain today.

Hanson’s own home, which he named Casa Romantica, followed these plans, with the rooms opening off a central courtyard. It overlooked the San Clemente pier, which he also built.

Casa Romantica
Casa Romantica is the white building on the bluff, as seen from the San Clemente pier.

The Depression of the 1930s was hard on the Hanson family. Ole’s money was tied up in too much real estate, and he lost everything he still owned in San Clemente, including his own mansion. Eventually, he left the coast and started a new property development in Twentynine Palms, north of the Palm Springs area in San Bernardino County.

Today, Casa Romantica, now called the Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens is open to the public. Some of the rooms that once housed the large Hanson family (Ole and his wife had ten children) have period furniture. The rooms that were once bedrooms for the Hanson boys are now a gallery with historical artifacts and displays of the San Clemente area. (This includes a bust of President Richard Nixon.) The tile floors throughout the house are wonderful examples of the work of early California potteries. The gardens include a variety of plants native to the area, plus a butterfly garden which is a designated stopping place for Monarch butterflies.

The view of the San Clemente pier and the ocean beyond are unchanged and remain as beautiful as ever. And the opposite view, standing on the pier and looking up at Casa Romantica, is also striking.

The young man from Wisconsin led an interesting life, from founding one town in Seattle and serving as Seattle’s mayor, to lecturing nationwide, to founding a second town in southern California. He died of a heart attack at age 66.

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