In 1917, several Northern California artists formed an association that was to become known as the Society of Six. 'The Six' Selden Connor Gile, Maurice Logan, William H. Clapp, August F. Gay, Bernard Von Eichman and Louis Siegriest were plein air painters who are known for their fresh and direct approach. The height of their association lasted for more than a decade, and as William Gerdts wrote in his book American Impressionism, "The Oakland Six may constitute the most important modernist development that occurred in this country during the 1920s."
Known for their unified sense of visual purpose as well as very intense and independent personalities, these regional artists were considered outsiders in their own time, but their work is now increasingly appreciated for their contribution to the greater lineage of American art. The Six found themselves in the position of an avant-garde, not because they set out to reject convention, but because they aspired to express their own new vision, versus that of previous more 'Europeanized' California artists. Their color-centered works shocked establishment tastes of their time, but remain the most advanced painting of the early 20th century in Northern California.
The exuberant and generally optimistic spirit of their works changed with the onset of the Great Depression of the 1930s. However, their painterliness, use of color, and deep alliance with the land and the light was to become a beacon for postwar Northern California modern painters such as Richard Diebenkorn and Wayne Thiebaud.