Passengers: San Francisco 1800s

Leon Trousset

1838-1917

Born and raised in France, Leon Trousset became known in California as a painter of landscapes, architectural and historical scenes, and city views of the type then popular in lithographs.

He was in Mazatlan, Mexico, in 1874, but the next year he was actively working in Northern California. In Sonoma in 1875, he fulfilled commissions from Aguillon Winery, rendered a view of J. A. Poppe's store, and produced a view of the town. He also journeyed to Oakland, where he painted Lake Merritt. That fall he went south to Monterey where he sketched and painted with other artists in the area, befriended Jules Simoneau as he socialized at his restaurant, and became, if only briefly, an important personality in the fledgling art colony.

Trousset arrived in Monterey in the fall of 1875; shortly after his arrival Trousset produced a watercolor, City of Monterey, California, November

Old Mesilla Place. Leon Trousset.

Leon Trousset.

First, 1875, prominently titled and dated across the lower margin. Typical of Trousset's work, the rendering suggests a lack of academic training but is charming in its attention to the unique details of Monterey life. Whaling, complete with flukes emerging from the water, takes place in the bay, and the beach is strewn with the bones of leviathans washed ashore. Architectural landmarks such as Monterey's Presidio Chapel and the Custom House are also recognizable.

In 1876 Trousset left for Southern California, where he worked briefly for St. Vibiana's church in Los Angeles producing two large religious scenes, The Resurrection of Christ and The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was perhaps on his way there that he produced a large view of San Luis Obispo.

After Los Angeles, he once again returned to the central coast, initially settling in Castroville, where he and his fellow French artist, Alexander Zins, were commissioned to make paintings for churches there and in Santa Rita.

That same year Trousset produced Moss Landing at Castroville, a large painting depicting a sweeping view of the areas landscape and architecture. He also produced the equally large and ambitious View of Santa Cruz, along with a smaller, more intimate, view of the town and a view of the local mission.

After completing his church commissions, Trousset returned to Monterey to paint the areas coastal scenery. He also began a series of historical Monterey subjects.

In 1876 and 1877 he produced scenes of the founding of the mission and Father Serra's first mass, which took place beneath a large oak on the Monterey shore on June 3, 1770. The location of the event was likely the spot where Sebasti?n Vizca?no had, 168 years earlier, first celebrated the Eucharist. The presence of Indian neophytes and the fact that there is only one boat in the bay, whereas Vizcanno came with three, make clear that the padre was meant to be Serra himself and not one of the Carmelite fathers who came with Vizcanno's expedition. A large version of the subject, dated 1877, hangs at the Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmelo.

In February 1877 Trousset, in the company of the French artists M. Dupont and Frank Renoult, returned to San Francisco. From there the elusive artist left California.

By 1879 he was in Durango, Mexico, and left behind a view of the town. In 1884 he was in Chihuahua, Mexico, where he rendered the city plaza. He was in Texas and New Mexico in 1885 and 1886, producing views and architectural scenes in El Paso, Albuquerque, Mesilla, Socorro, and other towns. He ultimately settled in Juarez, Mexico. There he married Maria Jesus Bustos, adopted a son, Antonio Bustos Trousset, and died of arteriosclerosis on December 29, 1917.

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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