A native of St. Paul, Minnesota, Van Soelen trained in art at the St. Paul Institute from 1908 to 1911, and then attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, 1911-1915. The Pennsylvania Academy awarded Van Soelen a Cresson Traveling Scholarship which enabled him to tour and study in Europe in 1913 and 1914. Shortly after launching his art career back in the United States, Van Soelen headed west, seeking relief from tuberculosis. After spending time in Utah and Nevada, he settled in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1916. Working as a commercial illustrator, he also began to sell his fine art paintings. To acquaint himself with the people and landscapes of New Mexico, Van Soelen spent time in the small towns and ranches of the region. Early on, scenes of ranch life became his favorite subjects. Van Soelen married Virginia Carr in 1922 and the couple moved to Santa Fe before permanently settling in nearby Tesuque, New Mexico in 1926. Van Soelen's reputation grew rapidly throughout this time, but like other New Mexico's easel painters, most of his customers were in the East. In the 1930s he established a second studio in Cornwall, Connecticut to be closer to that market. Van Soelen painted in a detailed, realistic style with a slightly muted palette and strong draftsmanship. Though most famous for his ranch-life genre paintings, he also painted landscapes and formal portraits, and produced several popular lithographs on cowboy themes. In 1938 Van Soelen won a mural commission for the Post Office in Portales, New Mexico. He was a Fellow of the National Academy and exhibited in various juried exhibitions including the National Academy, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Chicago Art Institute. In 1960 he was named Honorary Fellow in Fine Arts by the School of American Research.
A leading member of the avant-garde symbolist artists in Chicago, Claude Buck moved there from his birth place of New York City in 1919. He was known for his "fantastic, sometimes disturbing images with allegorical and literary themes" (Kennedy 97) drawn from writings of Edgar Allen Poe, operas by Richard Wagner, classical mythology and New Testament writings from the Bible. Some of these early paintings had nude figures rendered in classical style to express abstract themes developed through dream-like landscapes and disregard of relative scale or relatedness between the figures. These paintings had luminist elements achieved with light-toned paints worked with transparent glazes. In the 1920s to earn money by gaining public favor and also expressing his increasing disdain for modernism, Buck did a number of "hyper-real" portraits, figures and still lifes. These proved popular and aligned him with the opponents of abstraction and their "Sanity in Art" movement whose headquarters were in Chicago. Buck taught drawing and painting at the Chicago Academy of Fine Art from 1921 to 1926, and at the Art Institute, where he took over classes of George Bellows. In New York City before coming to Chicago, Buck had a reputation as a radical artist. He took his first art training from his father, William R. Buck, from the time he was ages three to fourteen, and then until he was twenty-two, he studied at the National Academy of Design where he was nicknamed "Kid Hassam" because his painting reminded viewers of that of Claude Hassam. Buck worked as a scene painter in the theatre and at the Willet Stained Glass company, and in 1914 began portrait commissions to earn money. In New York he founded a group named the Introspectives, which reflected his own problems with melancholy during that period. Members, holding their first exhibition at the Whitney Studio in 1917, were artists who expressed their personal feelings and experiences and included Raymond Jonson and Emil Armin. In this phase of his career, Buck was focused on Old World styles of Leonardo da Vinci, Ralph Blakelock and Albert Pinkham Ryder. In 1929, the Arts Council of New York voted him one of the top one-hundred painters in the United States. In 1949, Buck and his wife, Leslie, moved to California to a studio-home in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and ten years later they settled in Santa Barbara where he died on August 4, 1974. In California, he was a member of the Carmel Art Association, the Santa Cruz Art League that he served as President in 1953,and the Santa Barbara Art Association. His paintings are in the collections of the Santa Cruz Public Library; the Santa Cruz City Museum as well as the Spencer Museum in Lawrence, Kansas; the Brigham Young University Museum; and the Museum of Elgin, Illinois.
Brought to New York City in 1850, William Keith was apprenticed to a wood engraver in 1856 working for "Harper’s" magazine. In 1858 (or 1859) he visited California for "Harper’s" and then after a trip to Great Britain, settled in California as an engraver in 1862. He began exhibiting paintings in 1864 in San Francisco where he opened his studio, after having been taught painting by his wife. The Northern Pacific Railroad commissioned him to do landscape paintings along its route about 1868. In 1869-70 he studied in Dusseldorf, Germany; in 1871-72, he shared a studio in Boston with William Hahn; and in 1872, he returned to California. A nature lover, he found there was “scarcely a mountain in three-fourths of California where he had not kept vigil for days as a time, studying every detail of color, flower, rock, forge, shadow, and sunshine.” Keith became Thomas Hill’s rival in monumental landscapes, saying, “I’d be satisfied if I could reach the power and success of Tom Hill.” When George Inness visited California in 1890, he worked in Keith’s studio for many weeks, and they made sketching trips together. The result for Keith was an influenced style reflecting the subjective rather than the spectacular. His "Majesty of the Oaks" painting sold at auction in New York City in 1903 for $2,300., and about the same time "Glory of the Heaven" sold at auction in San Francisco for $12,000. Of medium height with unruly curly hair, Keith had his studio next to the live oaks on the Berkeley campus where it was the center of the university-oriented California culture. The 1906 earthquake and fire destroyed 2,000 of Keith’s works.