The Abbey Art Collection
Seek Things Above

Providing a window into the art world of Mount Angel Abbey.

Summer Virtual Exhibit: William Henry Price:
From the Sierras to the Pacific

Through the eyes of Fr. Martin Pollard, OSB, curator from 1945 – 1986

Throughout the year, we focus on different pieces from the collection. If you are inspired by seeing and learning about the art, please visit again.

Quarterly Virtual Exhibit: January, April, July, October

Who was William Henry Price?

William Henry Price

William Henry Price was born in Irwin, near Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, on February 14, 1864, and died in Pasadena, California, on September 12, 1940, at the age of 76. He received four months of formal art education when he was 15 years old. After that he earned a living and supported his family as a mining engineer in Montana until he was 52, when he retired because of ill-health. He became superintendent of the Moonlight Mine of the Anaconda Copper Company at Butte until 1916. That year he was diagnosed with a lung ailment and had to quit mining work. He was given approximately six months to live “if he took care of himself.” He then moved to California, hoping to recover. He didn’t die but could never return to his previous career. He painted his last piece in 1937, called “The Fading Light.” The next day, he found that he had lost his eye sight.

In 1929 he was admitted to membership in the Los Angeles Society of Painters and Sculptors. “Incoming Tide” won first prize by popular vote at the Pasadena Civic Art Exhibition. “High Sierras” won the James Ackley McBride prize for the best landscape at the annual exhibition of the Pasadena Society of Artists in 1936. The Pasadena Society of Artists admitted him into their circle and later voted him membership for life unanimously. He was one of the founders of the Academy of Western Painters as well as the Pacific Geographic Society, organized in 1929. His life-long relationship was with Sarah Beatrice (Cox) Price, his wife and major supporter. Sarah Price was also an artist and taught for many years. A number of her pieces are also in the Mount Angel Art Collection.

How did this collection come to be at Mount Angel Abbey?

Fr. Gabriel Morrisroe, OSB

An elderly California artist named Sarah Bernice Price, the wife of recently deceased William Henry Price (d. 1940), contacted the Abbey in 1945. It seems that she and her husband met Fr. Gabriel Morrisroe, OSB (1897 – 1962), on one of his trips south, and the idea of such a donation developed. It was their desire to give a large collection of her husband’s work to Mount Angel. The “Price Memorial Collection” was presented to the Abbey by Mrs. Price and her son, Mark B. Price, during a visit that year. The collection included landscapes, marines, and mountain scenes. At first, the paintings numbered around 30 pieces of different sizes, mostly painted with a palette knife. Eventually, with subsequent gifts, the paintings rose to over 140. One hundred and forty paintings represented a big responsibility and a great deal of work. Sarah Price gave a similar, though significantly smaller, collection to the University of Oregon later that same year.

Who was Fr. Martin Pollard, OSB?

Fr. Martin Pollard, OSB

In 1945, Abbot Thomas Meier, OSB, turned to Fr. Martin Pollard, OSB, recently returned from studies in Rome to oversee the William Henry Price collection. Fr. Martin and Sarah Price soon developed a lively correspondence about the collection and many other things and became steady friends until her death (unknown date). From 1945 until 1986, Fr. Martin remained the art curator of the Abbey. He organized the visit of a New York painting restorer to examine several of our large paintings. Following the methods of the time, he cleaned and oiled the Price paintings on several occasions. Amazingly, he compiled no less than three detailed reviews of the entire collection about ten years apart, noting the year of creation, where pieces were located on the hill, and their condition. Even a quick read of his remarks about the individual pieces and the collection reveals a lively interest in and admiration for the Price collection. Fr. Martin also ventured some comments on the artistic quality of paintings from time to time, e.g., “WHP had a bad day with this one!” or, this painting is “out of this world!” These comments exemplify his enthusiasm for the work.

Comments by Fr. Martin Pollard, OSB, compiled by Michael Hamilton in collaboration with Fr. Nathan Zodrow, OSB.

Sunset on California Mountains

Image: 33.25″ x 35″, oil on canvas, signed

“William Henry Price paints the exuberant line and color of sunset in the Sierras. Above a cold blue lake the crags turn pink and violet and rise up shouting a psalmodic rhapsody.” – Arthur Miller, Art Editor of the Los Angeles Times (Comment given on piece [when displayed] in the Painters and Sculptors Exhibition) (Note by Fr. Martin Pollard, OSB)

Southern California Coast

Image: 37.5′ x 42.5′, oil on canvas, signed

Critics consider that in painting marines Mr. Price was at his best. This fine piece received high praise in a number of California exhibitions during the painter’s lifetime: 6th annual Southern California Exhibition, 1931 (California Art Club); Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego; and more recently (1954), it was on display at Gill’s in Portland, Oregon. (Note by Fr. Martin Pollard, OSB)

Tahquitz Canyon | Near Palm Springs, California

Image: 32.5″ x 36.25″, oil on canvas, signed

Glowing rays of sun warm these ancient palms, hoary sentinels of bygone years. They stand on one of the most beautiful and culturally sensitive areas of the Agua Cahuilla Indian reservation. (Note by Fr. Martin Pollard, OSB)

Oak Grove

Image: 27.25″ x 33″, oil on canvas, not signed

A pleasing copse study. Artists have praised this piece for its fine balance, coloring, and presentation. The color ensemble in this work is much admired. Seen under good light, it is simply splendid. (Note by Fr. Martin Pollard, OSB)


Passing Brilliance of Autumn

Image: 32 3/4″ x 29 1/2″, oil on canvas, not signed

Sycamores in their glory of golden leaves. To appreciate the striking colors of this painting one should see it where it was made – outdoors. (Note by Fr. Martin Pollard, OSB)

Sunset on the Pacific

Image: 29″ x 32 1/4″, oil on canvas, signed

Critics have praised this picture for its nicely balanced composition/ensemble with varied elements from top to bottom. Casual visitors will remember the golden sky. [Such a break in the clouds revealing a sunset, Mr. Ruskin calls an “opening into eternity.” “Eternity,” adds G. K. Chesterton to the passage, “is pink and gold.”] (Note by Fr. Martin Pollard, OSB)

Hidden Lake (California)Hidden Lake | California

Image: 30.5″ x 36.5″, oil on canvas, signed

With good reason this is one of the most admired pieces in the collection. [It was likewise on display at Gill’s in 1945, a photo of the same appearing in the Oregonian at the time.] (Note by Fr. Martin Pollard, OSB)

Turmoil of the Sea | Laguna Beach, California

Image: 40.5″ x 50.5″, oil on canvas, signed

This splendid marine may be introduced by quoting the “Los Angeles Herald” in its judgement of a similar piece and on Mr. Price’s marines in general: “The sea, surf, and rocks through the ages have been tackled from about every conceivable angle. In the ‘Surging Sea’ William Henry Price accomplishes from his chosen point of view what others so often fail to do, movement combined and alternating with repose. (Note by Fr. Martin Pollard, OSB)

Golden Coves | Palos Verdes Peninsula, California

Image: 29″ x 33″, oil on canvas, not signed

Turbulent waves mark the Golden Cove area of California located only 12 to 18 miles from Los Angeles. The golden color captured by William Henry was produced by tectonic plates of the seabed forced up to around 1400′ above sea level. (Note by Fr. Martin Pollard, OSB)


Spring Flush | Near Pasadena, California

Image: 28 3/4″ x 34 1/2″, oil on canvas, not signed

This painting shows careful, detailed work. The reflections in the stream are excellently done. The varied greens of new foliage, in contrast with some old leaves remaining, and the purple hill background, make this scene a fairy paradise. (Note by Fr. Martin Pollard, OSB)

Laguna Coast | California

Image: 28.5″ x 38.5″, oil on canvas, signed

This marine, a really finished Price product, has won high praise from art critics when shown in various exhibitions. This painting was given personally to Father Gabriel Morrisroe, OSB, in 1938 by William and Sarah Price. “‘Laguna Coast’ was the choice of 2,000 persons who voted it first place at the Civic Art Exhibit at Pasadena, California, in 1937.” (Note by Fr. Martin Pollard, OSB)

Brook in Sylvan Setting | California

Image: 16 1/8″ x 14″, oil on canvas

Father Martin describes this small piece as “still water in a fairy land of nature.”

Stream Amid Sycamores

Image: 30 1/2″ x 37 1/2″, oil on canvas, not signed

The ensemble here suggests Psalm 1, 3–4. True, the psalmist wrote of a Palestinian oasis, but his poetic fancy certainly did not conjure up a scene more beautiful than this. (Note by Fr. Martin Pollard, OSB)

Tender Oak Canyon | Lakeside, California

Image: 30 1/2″ x 27 1/4″, oil on canvas, signed

Winding stream among summer oaks. The painting is richly textured with the use of a palette knife and set in a gilded frame from the period chosen by the artist. (Note by Fr. Martin Pollard, OSB)

Curator’s Note

Thank you for viewing our summer virtual exhibit!

If you know someone who may enjoy our exhibits, please pass the link on to them.

If you would like to see more of the Mount Angel Abbey Art Collection, please see the archive links below.

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– Fr. Nathan Zodrow, OSB, Abbey Art Curator