Photo of "The Mission" by the late artist, Nancy Burtch Hauk. Photos courtesy of Steve Hauk.

Tucked between pages of a hardbound book shelved in the family home or filling a sketchbook stored in the attic, the watercolor paintings of Central Coast missions remained hidden from public view, their location only known to the artist, the late Nancy Burtch Hauk of Pacific Grove. A new exhibition at Mission San Juan Bautista starting this weekend marks their coming out party.

“Loving Watercolor: Paintings of the California Missions by Nancy Burtch Hauk (1944-2016)” will debut at the mission’s museum beginning on Sunday, Dec. 17 and run through March 2018. The exhibit features scenes from missions San Juan Bautista, Carmel, Soledad, and San Antonio.

Few outside of her immediate family and close circle of friends knew of Hauk’s artistic abilities, though she had painted for decades.

“There’s was nothing she couldn’t paint,” said Steve Hauk of his late wife in a telephone interview with BenitoLink, adding that she had an affinity for California missions.

“She loved the beauty of the mission, both its design and architecture,” he said.

After his wife’s death in July 2016, Hauk explained that he and the couple’s daughters spent hours going through the family home, discovering “great watercolor after great watercolor” of Nancy’s artwork. Among the finds was her mission series of paintings.

Hauk said Nancy counted Mission San Juan Bautista as one of her favorites, drawn to the complex’s size and the interior designs found throughout each building.

It’s only fitting that the centerpiece to the “Loving Watercolor” exhibition is a 16-by-20-inch painting titled, “The Mission.” 

It features the local mission below both a daytime and nighttime sky divided by a drape held by smiling angels. A signature of Hauk’s mission works is a dado, a border bearing the design that accentuates the church’s interior walls. A handwritten description by the artist completes the work.

“She tied the exterior to the interior [of missions], playing games with it, but not in a frivolous way,” said Steve of Nancy’s artistic style.

He explained that giclees and note cards of “The Mission” will be available for purchase at the mission gift shop during the exhibition. 

A giclee (pronounced, zee-clay) is an artistic reproduction using an inkjet that captures the aesthetics and texture of watercolor, he added.

Huak, who owns the Hauk Fine Arts gallery in Pacific Grove, will attend the display’s public opening on Sunday, Dec. 17 from 1 p.m. to 4, answering questions about Nancy’s life and artwork.

“She had of love of beauty, love of the work of man, and a love for creating,” he said.

And he hopes that those viewing her watercolors take, as Nancy often did, “a second, third, and fourth look” at the artwork done by the hands of mission priests and Indians.


More information: 

Old Mission San Juan Bautista

Second and Mariposa Streets
P.O. Box 400
San Juan Bautista, CA 95045
Phone: 831-623-4528

Gift shop/Mission hours
9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Museum Entrance Fees
Adults $4
Seniors 60 & over: $3
Children 16 & under: $2
Children 5 & under: Free