Friedolin Kessler | On A Mission

Friedolin Kessler (1913-1995), was one of the WPA's most exceptional artists. He came to California by way of the Missouri Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a Depression-era federal program of the WPA, which moved the entire Missouri CCC in 1935 to New Almaden Quicksilver County Park in California. Frideolin was appointed the camp artist. In May of 1938 Friedolin undertook a remarkable solitary journey: A 1600 mile bicycle trip down the coast of California, intending to visit and document each of the historic California Missions in their current state. He followed “El Camino Real” (present day CA Highway Routes 101 & 5), the same route the Spanish Mission Padres traveled as they established their chain of missions from San Diego to Sonoma in the years 1769 to 1823.

Pedaling 30 to 90 miles a day, he reached all 21 missions over an eight week period, making sketches and taking photographs of each one. His diary of this trip track his progress, activities and even his expenditures. Remarkably, he was able to maintain his budget of less than $1 a day. Upon his return, he spent 14 months creating linoleum cuts of each Mission. At the time and still, they were the only known documentation of the then current state of the California Missions in the 1930s. The prints he made have been displayed throughout California, including at the World’s Fair "Treasure Island" exhibition in 1940, and at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco in 1942.

image San Juan Bautista (Founded June 24th, 1797) 1940
image San Carlos de Borromeo (Founded June 3rd, 1770) 1940
image San Francisco de Asis (Founded June 29th, 1776) 1940
image Santa Inez (Founded September 17th, 1804) 1940
image San Miguel Arcangel (Founded July 25th, 1797) 1940
image Asistencia San Antonio de Pala (Founded in 1816) 1940
image San Luis Rey (Founded June 13th, 1798) 1940
image La Purisima Concepcion (Founded Dec 8th, 1787) 1940
image San Diego de Alcala (Founded July 16th, 1769) 1940
image San Juan Capistrano (Founded November 1st, 1776) 1940
image Santa Barbara (Founded December 4th, 1786) 1940
image Santa Cruz (Founded August 28th, 1791) 1940
image San Luis Obispo de Tolosa (Founded September 1st, 1772) 1940
image San Francisco Solano (Founded July 4th, 1823) 1940
image San Antonio de Padua (Founded July 14th, 1771) 1940
image San Buenaventura (Founded March 31st, 1782) 1940
image San Jose de Guadalupe (Founded June 11th, 1797) 1940
image San Gabriel Arcangel (Founded September 8th, 1771) 1940