The art of Lomaland at San Diego History Center.

The Bard, Reginald Willoughby Machell, c. 1895. Oil on canvas. One of the Theosophical Society artist's allegorical works.
The Bard, Reginald Willoughby Machell, c. 1895. Oil on canvas. One of the Theosophical Society artist’s allegorical works concerning spirituality.

Until yesterday, I didn’t know very much about Lomaland. I knew it was a Theosophical community in Point Loma with several exotic buildings that were located where Point Loma Nazarene University stands today, but that’s about all.

After viewing the San Diego History Center’s current exhibition The Path of the Mystic: Art & Theosophy at Lomaland, and doing a little online research, I now know more about this unique utopian community that made important cultural contributions to San Diego in the first half of the 20th century.

Lomaland was established by Katherine Tingley in 1897. The home of the Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society, the community became a haven for learning, culture and social reform. Artists and like-minded individuals from around the world came to Lomaland to lead spiritual, contemplative, idealistic lives.

According to the San Diego History Center website: “Tingley’s progressive Theosophical vision, which placed strong emphasis on cultural pursuits including music, dance, drama, literature and visual art, attracted artists from the United States and abroad. As the community developed, many artists came to live and work at Lomaland, including Marguerite Lemke Barton, Grace “Gay” Betts, Maurice Braun, Benjamin Gordon, Leonard Lester, Marian Plummer Lester, Reginald Willoughby Machell, and Edith White.”

I learned from Wikipedia: “Led by Katherine Tingley, the group came to Point Loma to establish a community that would model the philosophical and humanitarian goals of Theosophy. The “White City” envisioned by Tingley was to be located on the extreme western edge of the North American continent but oriented toward India, the spiritual center of Theosophical beliefs. The blend of new world confidence, Victorian morality, a love of antiquity, and Indian spirituality created a unique community …”

The buildings of Lomaland were completed in 1900, and the Theosophical community flourished in Point Loma until 1942, when it relocated to Covina. The main building and Temple of Peace, which often appear in Theosophical Society artwork, had domes of aquamarine and amethyst colored glass. They could be seen far out to sea, and as far east as Mt. Cuyamaca. They were destroyed by fire in 1952. The Spaulding house today serves as the administration building at Point Loma Nazarene University.

I took a few photos of the exhibition in subdued lighting, but my poor old camera doesn’t capture the full detail and beauty of this artwork.

Many more paintings, historical photographs and other works of unique art in The Path of the Mystic: Art & Theosophy at Lomaland will be on display through April 19, 2020 at the San Diego History Center in Balboa Park.

Katherine Tingley, founder of Lomaland, in her office.
Katherine Tingley, founder of Lomaland, in her office.
Roman Gate, entrance to Lomaland in Point Loma.
Roman Gate, entrance to Lomaland in Point Loma.
Marian Plummer Lester, Untitled drawing, c. 1908. Ink on paper. Small drawing of the Temple of Peace and Raja-Yoga Academy buildings at Lomaland when the artist was fifteen years old.
Marian Plummer Lester, Untitled, c. 1908. Ink on paper. Small drawing of the Temple of Peace and Raja-Yoga Academy buildings at Lomaland when the artist was fifteen years old.
Edith White, Landscape, 1917. Oil on canvas. Painting of foxglove from Lomaland's International Garden.
Edith White, Landscape, 1917. Oil on canvas. Painting of foxglove inspired by Lomaland’s International Garden.
Edith Whilte, Roses on a Fence, c. 1915. Oil on canvas. Close-up photo of a beautiful painting created in Lomaland.
Edith Whilte, Roses on a Fence, c. 1915. Oil on canvas. Close-up photo of a beautiful painting created in Lomaland.
The Prodigal or The Kingdom of Heaven is Within You, Reginald Willoughby Machell, c. 1895. Oil on canvas. Painted in England before artist moved to Point Loma in 1900.
The Prodigal or The Kingdom of Heaven is Within You, Reginald Willoughby Machell, c. 1895. Oil on canvas. Painted in England before artist moved to Point Loma in 1900.

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Richard Schulte

Downtown San Diego has been my home for many years. My online activities reflect my love for writing, blogging, walking and photography.

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