Overlooked No More: Granville Redmond, Painter, Actor, Friend

This article is a part of Overlooked, a sequence of obituaries about exceptional individuals whose deaths, starting in 1851, went unreported in The Times.

In the opening scene of the classic silent film “City Lights” (1931), Charlie Chaplin’s character, the Little Tramp, dangles comically from a statue whereas its sculptor watches in horror, elevating his hand to his mouth in shock and wiping his forehead in misery.

The actor portraying the sculptor, Granville Redmond, appeared in seven Chaplin movies, recognizable by his wild mane of hair. Redmond was deaf, and his performances have been early examples of deaf illustration in Hollywood. Some imagine Redmond even taught Chaplin, well-known as a pantomime, the right way to use signal language.

But Redmond was at first an artist, one who impressed Chaplin with work of California’s pure magnificence: quiet, brown tonal scenes; lonely rock monuments jutting off an island peninsula; tree-dotted meadows lit by a heat solar; blue nocturnal marshes beneath the dramatic glow of the moon. His work are thought of at present among the many greatest examples of California Impressionism.

The Los Angeles Times artwork critic Arthur Millier wrote in 1931 that Redmond was “unrivaled in the realistic depiction of California’s landscape.” Yet his fashion was by no means uniform: Some work left sections of the canvas uncovered and chunky deposits of pigment, whereas others took on a smoother look.

Above all he was identified for his work of golden poppies, the state’s official flower. His poppies accented his renditions of the rolling meadows of the San Gabriel Valley, typically accompanied by purple lupines. Sometimes they complemented a coastal scene with bursts of yellow highlights.

“He painted them better than anyone else; I don’t think that can be argued,” mentioned Scott A. Shields, who curated a show of Redmond’s work final yr on the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento. “You can feel the seasons. You can feel when it’s spring, you can feel when it’s winter, and you can feel when it starts to become summer.”

His work of poppies grew to become a preferred memento for vacationers, to Redmond’s chagrin; he most popular portray scenes of solitude.

“Alas, people will not buy them,” he instructed The Los Angeles Times. “They all seem to want poppies.”

Chaplin supported Redmond’s portray profession, providing him a room to color within the loft of an unused constructing on his studio lot. On breaks, Chaplin would go to Redmond there and quietly watch him work.

“Redmond paints solitude, and yet by some strange paradox the solitude is never loneliness,” Chaplin instructed Alice T. Terry in a 1920 article for The Jewish Deaf, {a magazine}.


He had such an appreciation for Redmond’s work that he took down the images of movie celebrities from his partitions in order to not detract from the Redmond work that he positioned over his mantel.

“You know, something puzzles me about Redmond’s pictures,” Chaplin was quoted as saying in 1925 in The Silent Worker, a newspaper for the deaf neighborhood. “There’s a wonderful joyousness about them all.”

“Look at the gladness in that sky, the riot of color in those flowers,” he continued. “Sometimes I think that the silence in which he lives has developed in him some sense, some great capacity for happiness in which we others are lacking.”

Grenville Richard Seymour Redmond was born in Philadelphia, Pa., on March 9, 1871, the oldest of 5 kids of Charles and Elizabeth (Buck) Redmond. (He modified the spelling of his identify to Granville in 1898 to distinguish himself from an uncle.) His father was a Civil War veteran within the Union Army and a laborer who labored throughout a number of trades.

Redmond misplaced his skill to listen to when he was 2, after coming down with scarlet fever. The subsequent yr his household moved to San Jose, Calif., to dwell close to a member of the family who owned a ranch.

In 1879, he enrolled within the California Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb, and the Blind (now the California School for the Deaf) in Berkeley. It was there Redmond discovered an affinity for drawing beneath the instruction of one other deaf artist, Theophilus Hope d’Estrella, who launched him to a Saturday artwork class on the California School of Design. He went on to enroll within the college. In 1893, he was chosen by the school to create a drawing for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

Redmond communicated by way of signal language and writing, however due to his give attention to artwork he by no means mastered written English, a niche in his schooling that he got here to remorse. “In my early days in school I was always drawing, drawing,” he wrote.

After commencement, he studied in Paris on the Académie Julian. In 1895, his portray “Matin d’Hiver” (“Winter Morning”), depicting a barge on a financial institution of the Seine, was admitted to the Paris Salon, a excessive honor for an artist on the time. He painted in France for just a few extra years, hoping to enter one other portray on the Salon and win a medal, however he struggled financially and returned to California, depressed, in 1898.

He married Carrie Ann Jean, who was from Indiana and likewise deaf, in 1899, and so they had three kids.

Redmond’s early works have been Tonalist in nature, a nod to his coaching in San Francisco in addition to to the artists of the Nineteenth-century Barbizon school, whose panorama work he had come to know in France. Many of his work are scenes from Terminal Island, Catalina Island and Laguna Beach in Southern California. He returned to Northern California in 1908, dwelling and portray in Monterey, San Mateo and Marin Counties.

“A lot of newspapers would write that he could see more than the average person because his sense of vision was heightened,” Shields, the Crocker museum curator, mentioned in a cellphone interview. “Redmond kind of believed that himself.”

Redmond’s work was properly obtained, however a scarcity of funds — partly due to an financial downturn at first of World War I — led him to maneuver again to Los Angeles and check out his hand at appearing.

In the silent-movie period Redmond’s incapacity, coupled along with his inventive inclination, labored to his benefit. Chaplin noticed him as a pure for small elements in his movies as a result of Redmond expressed himself by way of gestures, Shields mentioned. The two males communicated on the set by signing to one another.

Sometimes Redmond’s deafness labored its manner into plotlines. In Arthur Rosson’s “You’d Be Surprised” (1926), Redmond performed a coroner pretending to be a deaf valet. Only viewers who knew signal language might comply with the dialog.

The motion pictures additionally offered him with a brand new marketplace for his artwork; consumers included the Hollywood elite, like Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford.

Redmond died of issues of a coronary heart situation on May 24, 1935. He was 64. (Chaplin died at 88 in 1977.)

Alice Terry, the author for The Jewish Deaf journal, noticed inventive commonalities within the two buddies.

“For more than two years now, these two have worked side by side,” she wrote in 1920, “Chaplin, silently and dramatically, by his ingenious trivialities, creating mirth and sunshine for millions of tired people; and Redmond, silently and none the less effectively, brightening the lives of all, by his radiant, appealing pictures on canvas.”

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