Tom K. Enman:

Southern California Impressionist

by John Hazeltine


(above: Thomas Enman, Laguna Beach Garden, c.1990s, Pastel, Private Collection)


In early 1995 I placed a call to Jack Archer. Jack is well known in Southern California art circles as a man to go to for advice on living artists. Jack has, for many years, managed the annual exhibition of artists in the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts. I had just agreed to help Historic Mission San Juan Capistrano establish a visual arts program as a key component of its renaissance as a regional cultural center. Friends and myself were designing an exhibition schedule for the Rancho Room of the mission. We had decided that the mission would invite collectors, artists, dealers and museums to exhibit at the mission art objects that lent to the ambience of the buildings and grounds.

We were on the hunt for excellent works by artists who painted the Southern California coast and its historic buildings, as well as other places of natural beauty within the Golden State. Our first "catch" was David Stary-Sheets, son of Millard Sheets, who mounted a brilliant exhibition of paintings of Christian religious festivals by indigenous peoples and Hispanic churches. Other well received exhibitions followed.

When I called Jack I asked him who he might recommend for us to speak with among his artist contacts. Right away, he recommended Tom Enman. Jack shared that Tom was a long-time Laguna Breach artist and resident, respected for his impressionist landscape paintings of Southern California's coastal and inland vistas, plus scenes of the garden and life along the coast. Tom had, Jack explained, some years ago been the founding director of the Laguna Art Museum, and was revered by many artists in Laguna Beach for his vision and leadership over the years.

Without hesitation I called Tom and arranged a luncheon meeting. I explained that the mission was in need of preservation funds to insure that the historic buildings would be able to be saved for future generations. The old adobe buildings were literally melting away. Our idea was that if we could attract art patrons to the mission to view art works, they would be moved by the beauty of the grounds and become motivated to assist in conserving the architectural treasures. Tom warmed up to this plan right away. He agreed to help curate an exhibition of his works for a future month and to also invite his considerable number of patrons and friends to a reception.

While dining with Tom, I learned that well before Laguna Beach was established as a Southern California art center, San Juan Capistrano was a thriving artist colony. Artists, now famous, painted on and about the mission ruins, selling small canvases to tourists. Tom knew his local art history well. We discussed how painters including the Wachtels, Kleisch, Cooper, Clark, Bischoff and others had earned a living painting around the mission. How fitting, we agreed, to refocus the mission on its artistic heritage.

Tom was good to his word an worked tirelessly to mount a well-received exhibition of his works in 1996.

Tom was born in Salt Lake City in 1928. In 1952 he was awarded certification by the prestigious Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. Tom has had numerous gallery and museum shows over his distinguished career including exhibitions at the Huntington Library, Monterey Peninsula Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Redfern Gallery, and many more. Tom served as director of the Artists Guild in Laguna Beach in 1964-65, and became founding director of the Laguna Beach Museum of Art in 1965, serving through 1980.

TFAOI is proud to exhibit the artistry of Tom Enman, a gentleman and gifted artist.


Additional images:







Images courtesy of the artist.


Editor's note:

Mission San Juan Capistrano presented a retrospective exhibit of paintings by Tom Enman in 1996. Mr. Enman had been largely forgotten as an important local artist at the time of invitation to exhibit at the Mission. He broke into tears of appreciation that tribute would be paid to him and his work. Read more information, articles and essays concerning Mission San Juan Capistrano by visiting the Mission's sub-index page in Resource Library.

For further biographical information concerning artists cited above, please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

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(left: JP Hazeltine, founding editor, Resource Library)


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