Paul Kirtland Mays
1887-1961

Theme/Style – Landscapes, figurative art, illustrations

Media – Oils, murals, watercolors, tempera, sculptures

Artistic Focus – The vividly colored, yet dreamlike, paintings of Paul Mays reveal an artist who is, as Gene Frances of the Monterey Peninsula Herald wrote of him in 1946, “engaged in interpreting the world...as he wishes it to be. This region of inner vision is illuminated by a tranquil, golden light, rather like the color of the horizon after sunset or before dawn.”

Career Highlights –

• Paul Mays was born in Cheswick, Pennsylvania, in 1887, and at age 15 he began his art studies at the Cheshire Academy in Connecticut. He later studied at Oberlin College in Ohio, Hawthorne School in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and at the Art Students’ League in New York City under William Merritt Chase.
• Mays’s first exhibition in New York City, when he was still in his early twenties, created a sensation, and was such a financial success that he was able to further his art studies in Paris and London.
• In 1915 Mays came to San Francisco to assist Albert Herter on murals at the St. Francis Hotel, and also visited Carmel, where he was to live intermittently for the rest of his life.
• Mays exhibited at San Francisco’s California Palace of the Legion of Honor in 1920 and through the 1930s he exhibited at the Pasadena Gallery, the Whitney Museum in New York, the San Diego Fine Arts Gallery, and the Stendahl Gallery in Los Angeles.
• Mays made several trips to Europe from 1924 until 1933. When he returned to the U.S. he fulfilled many commissions for the WPA, creating murals in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and for the Paramount and Grauman’s Theaters in Los Angeles.
• During this period President Franklin D. Roosevelt selected Mays’s painting The Jungle to hang in the executive office of the White House.
• In 1936 Mays settled in Carmel, California; however, from 1947 to 1953 he taught at the Carnegie Institute in Pennsylvania.
• Returning to Carmel in 1953, Mays continued painting there until his death in 1961.

back