Marion Wachtel was a female American artist that was highly regarded in the early California school of Impressionism. Marion and her famous artist husband Elmer Wachtel became famous for traveling and painting wonderful landscapes from the Santa Barbara to San Diego, California.
Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on June 10, 1870 into an artistic family, Marion's mother was an artist and her great-grandfather a Royal Academician in London. She studied at the Art Institute of Chicago under Vanderpoel and in New York City with William M. Chase. For several years she taught at the Art Institute of Chicago and was popular in Milwaukee as a portrait painter. A commission from the Santa Fe Railway to paint scenes in their ticket offices brought her to California. Arriving in San Francisco in 1903, she became a pupil of William Keith. Learning of her proposed move to southern California, Keith suggested that she study with Elmer Wachtel.
The couple met and a romance blossomed, and in 1904 Elmer Wachtel married the artist Marion Kavanaugh (1876-1954) in Chicago. After their marriage, the Marion dropped the "u" in her surname and then spelled it "Kavanagh." Elmer and Marion were frequently seen painting the Southern California landscape en plein air -- they were known to have traveled by horseback over the San Marcos Pass to the Santa Inez Valley -- they traversed and painted the coastline between Gaviota and Conception Lighthouse (just north of Santa Barbara, California), the Cooper Ranch (north of Santa Barbara), Matilija Canyon and Ojai, California. Venturing south the couple made it to the San Luis Rey River (near present day Oceanside) and the Cerisa Loma Ranch (near San Diego). In 1908 they trekked to the arid deserts of Arizona and New Mexico painting the historic pueblo villages on the Moki and Navajo reservations.
During their marriage Marion specialized as a general rule in watercolors while Elmer stayed with oils. New York watercolor societies made her works popular on both coasts. Her early works are tighter and more meticulously detailed than those produced after 1920. After Elmer's death in 1929, she was inactive for a few years but continued to live in their Arroyo Seco home; by the early 1930s she was painting and exhibiting again. Mrs. Wachtel worked only with watercolor until after her husband's death. She died at her home in Pasadena on May 22, 1954.