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George Demont Otis Biography

An impressionist landscape painter, carver, etcher and teacher.  Born in Memphis, TN on Sept. 21, 1879.  After three seasons as a pitcher for Memphis and Nashville clubs, Otis abandoned a promising baseball career to pursue art. He first studied art at age 14 at the Art Institute of Chicago and showed early talent.  After finishing at the Institute, Otis enrolled in the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts with John Vanderpoel. He also trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and in New York City at the Cooper Union, the Art Students League, Brooklyn Academy, and the National Academy of Design. In addition, he took private lessons with John Carlson and William Merritt Chase for landscape, Izra Winters and Wellington Reynolds for figure and Robert Henri for still life. While based in Chicago, he traveled extensively, often in the company of Thomas Moran. Early in the century he lived in Colorado, Taos and Santa Fe, NM.  In 1919, Otis moved to Los Angeles where he established a studio in Burbank and worked for movie studios while painting scenes of the desert, mountains, beaches, trees, valleys and mountains. His painting skills had attracted the attention of Louis B. Mayer of MGM Studios in Hollywood, and Mayer hired Otis to design movie sets and oversee set-painting crews.  In his leisure he made frequent painting trips to the Indian reservations of New Mexico and Arizona. Moving to San Francisco in 1930, he established a studio in the former Arthur Putnam home and in 1934 moved across the Golden Gate to Kentfield into a home-studio. He taught hundreds of students during his lifetime; however, in 1939 he stopped teaching to devote his last years to painting. Among his friends were John Steinbeck, Jack London and Brother Cornelius.

An Impressionist, he is nationally recognized as a painter of mountain landscapes, sycamore and eucalyptus trees, and missions. A leader in conservation, he is known as the artistic father of Point Reyes National Seashore and the Golden Gate National Recreation area. Otis died at his home in Kentfield on February 25, 1962.

Member: Palette & Chisel Club (Chicago); Chicago Society of Art; Society of Western Artists (cofounder); Marin Society of Artists; Laguna Beach AA; Calif. Art Club; Painters & Sculptors of LA; Salmagundi Club; Western Arts Academy Foundation; American Artists Professional League. Exhibited: Calif. State Fair, 1925 (award). In: Orange County (CA) Museum; Harrison Library (Carmel); Hackley Gallery (Muskegon, MI); White House (Washington, DC); AIC; Irvine (CA) Museum; CHS; Smithsonian Inst.

Source: Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"