Eva Belle Adams (1874-1960), American
Tor House, Carmel, 1923
oil on artist’s board, 7 ¼ in. x 11 7/8 in.
(framed dimensions: 8 3/8 in. x 13 in.)
signed lower right: “E. B. Adams”
inscribed on reverse: “Adams Carmel” and “Painted Spring 1923”
This California Impressionist painting captures a special place along the Monterey Coast in Carmel-By-The-Sea. The location is Carmel Point on Carmel Bay, at that time known as Missionary Point. In 1923, the Point was a treeless, windswept, almost uninhabited headland. The stone house at upper right is Tor House, the home of Carmel’s most celebrated poet Robinson Jeffers and his wife Una and the twin sons the couple raised there. Robinson and Una arrived in Carmel in 1914 and fell in love with this spot. The couple purchased 5 acres on the Point and from 1917-1919 they built Tor House, so named because it was built on a knoll where the stones jutting out of the treeless moor reminded them of the tors of Dartmoor, England. Una Jeffers would later write eloquently about this place:
“Whales drifted by, spouting high, and dolphins curved from the water; we seldom see them now, nor the curious thin weasels full of sly menace among the stones. On cold moonlit nights coyotes’ voices came down on the valley wind – once several of them raged and yelled like maniacs in our very courtyard. All about us here was pulsing life and motion – flighting birds and pounding waves and cloud shadows fleeing across grasses bent and woven by the winds. There was a special night wind from the valley that withered unhindered around our exposed little house..”
Robinson Jeffers worked with the stonemasons to build Tor House, using native granite stones hauled up from the beach. The house, modeled after a Tudor English barn, was built with low ceilings and doors to decrease wind resistance and to conserve heat. Jeffers, having learned to build with stone, would later build, by himself, a 40-foot tower adjacent to the house, calling it “Hawk Tower” (see attached image). Interestingly, this painting in 1923 seems to capture the Tower in mid-progress. The whole family would enjoy the use of the tower and from the stone house Robinson would go on to write some of the most eloquent poetry ever written about a particular place. Many influential literary and cultural celebrities were guests here, including Sinclair Lewis, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Langston Hughes, Charles Lindbergh, George Gershwin and Charlie Chaplin.
The artist’s vantage point here is in a windswept field just south of Tor House looking up toward the knoll. Bright sunlight fills the scene as Ms. Adams quickly covers her board with the greens of the swaying grasses, the purples, pinks and yellows of the Monterey wildflowers in the foreground, the gray-purple of the distant tree line and the sliver of light cobalt blue representing Carmel Bay on the left.
Today, Tor House and Hawk Tower are still there and open to visitors. Carmel Point has been developed and the wide-open spaces have been replaced by tasteful homes and trees such as Monterey Pines, Cypresses and Eucalyptus. It is likely that Ms. Adams’ view of Tor House in this painting is from a spot along today’s Scenic Road which hugs the coast just below the house (see attached image).
Eva Belle Adams was born in Detroit, Michigan. She is known to have exhibited at the Detroit Society of Women Painters in 1906, 1907 and 1911 (in 1911 she exhibited a painting titled ‘Carmel Bay’, #1 of 60 total paintings in the exhibition). By 1923, she had moved to San Diego and would soon move further north to live in Carmel, joining the then burgeoning arts scene there. Adams became an active member of the community, exhibiting multiple times at the Carmel Arts and Crafts Club during the early 1920’s. She was also one of the original founding members of the Carmel Art Association in 1927. In the mid-1920’s, Adams was one of several members of the permanent art colony to study with the recently arrived artist James Blanding Sloan.
Adams continued to live and paint in Carmel for many years. Her residence in the 1930 census was on Casanova Street in Carmel with listed occupation of artist.
The 1940 census for Carmel lists Eva as the “owner - manager” of the Locksley Hall Hotel. While the address is not listed, it seems this might be the Maybury – McGowan House, a Tudor style home built in 1905 on 13th Ave. Originally designed by architect Eugenia Maybury, it was later purchased in 1908 by the McGowan sisters, both successful magazine and novel writers, who named their home Locksley Hall – it would become a popular gathering place for artists and other creative types in town.
Eva never married and she passed away in Pacific Grove, California in 1960.
The painting is in excellent condition. The paint surface is clean and the colors fresh. The painting was completed alla prima in one session and has no craquelure. The painting is unvarnished with a dry matte surface. The original wood and gold finish frame is in very good condition with age appropriate wear on edges and an overall patinated surface.
Eva Belle Adams, Tor House, Carmel, oil on board, 1923