Charles Reiffel (1862-1942)


Not all artists travel a traditional path of intensive study to perfect their muse. San Diego's Charles Reiffel, a self-taught artist who won more than 23 important painting awards nationwide, did not paint full time until he was 58 years old.

A lithographer by profession, Reiffel first worked in Cincinnati, then New York, before heading for England in 1898. He worked there for six years and, while traveling through Europe and Africa, he composed a sketch book of such quality that several pages sold upon his return to America. He also briefly studied portraiture with Carl von Marr in Germany, and more importantly, he witnessed the prevailing artistic movement in Munich where the theory and presentation of color unity was valued above subject depiction.

Crediting his innovative interpretations and unique use of color, Reiffel found critical and commercial success on the American east coast, winning his first award in 1908. By 1921 he had retired from lithography to devote himself solely to painting. While on a 1927 vacation to New Mexico with his wife, Reiffel "discovered" San Diego. Within a year the couple had moved permanently, to reside and paint the vitality and variety of outdoor activity in California's southernmost city.

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