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Spanierman Gallery, NYC

A landscape painter known especially for his views of the tropics, Fortunato Arriola was born in Casala in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico. In 1857, he emigrated with his family to San Francisco. Described as “tall and aristocratic,” Arriola was well educated and spoke several languages. Self-taught as an artist, Arriola was only able to practice painting after settling in San Francisco. He began his career as a portrait painter, receiving a number of awards for his meticulous works in this genre, including a silver medal at the San Francisco Mechanics’ Institute Fair in 1865. By 1862, however, Arriola was focusing on landscape painting and soon became “famous for his scenes of tropical splendor” in San Francisco’s art community. Many of his landscapes, such as Sunset on the Palmettos, Moonlight in the Tropics, and Evening on the Palmillas River were based on his memories and visions of Mexico. Arriola was also distinguished for his scenes of San Francisco life, one of which is Howard Street by Night (ca. 1860s), which depicts a horse-drawn carriage traveling toward Rincon Hill, the most fashionable residential San Francisco neighborhood at the time.

In 1872, Arriola made a trip to New York in order to display two of his works—Water Carrier in Mexico and Appointment by Moonlight—View on the Palmillas River, Mexico—at the National Academy of Design. In September of that year, on his way back to San Francisco aboard the steamer Bienville, there was an explosion that caused the ship to sink. The artist’s lifeboat capsized and presumably he drowned.

Works by Arriola can be found in the collections of the Oakland Museum; the California Historical Society, San Francisco; and the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, California.


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