Fine Art by Nancy Hauk on Show in Pacific Grove, John Steinbeck’s Favorite Place

Image of "Near Harmony," John Steinbeck Country painting by Nancy Hauk

The magical landscape of John Steinbeck’s beloved Monterey, California Peninsula continues to inspire fine art with broad appeal. “Loving Watercolor, Paintings by Nancy Hauk’’—an exhibition opening on April 17 at the Pacific Grove Public Library—is an impressive example. “Near Harmony” (above) was painted just off Highway 1 on the Central California coast. John Steinbeck worked on the highway construction crew as a young man before becoming the state’s most famous writer.

Image of Steinbeck Country scene by Pacific Grove painter Nancy Hauk

John Steinbeck’s Pacific Grove

Steinbeck did much of his early writing in Pacific Grove, the quaint, colorful town south of Monterey, California, where Cannery Row starts and a slender street running past the Steinbeck family cottage bears the name of Ed Ricketts, the marine biologist and model for Jim Casy and other characters in John Steinbeck’s most memorable fiction. As it happens, Nancy Hauk’s home is the former abode of Ricketts and his first wife—also named Nancy—on Pacific Grove’s legendary Lighthouse Avenue. Holman’s Department Store, instantly recognizable to readers of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row fiction, isn’t far. Hauk Fine Arts, the gallery owned by Nancy and her husband Steve, is also located nearby. Pacific Grove is a walking town, like Sag Harbor, the Long Island village that became Steinbeck’s Pacific Grove East when he lived in New York later in life.

The Fine Art of Nancy Hauk

Image of Nancy Hauk, fine artistNancy Burtch Hauk made the opposite journey, majoring in art history at Connecticut College before moving to Pacific Grove with her husband Steve and pursuing the important career of breaking down test biases for CTB–McGraw Hill, traveling the country and working with the late Ross Green, a national pioneer in the field of educational test assessment and publication. When she could find the time as a busy professional with two children, she painted scenes of Monterey, California and France, studying with Sam Colburn—who arrived on the Monterey Peninsula in the 1930s and knew and associated with many of the same artists John Steinbeck did—as well as National Academicians Gregory Kondos and Don Nice, Claire Verbiest, Gerald Brommer, Katherine Stock and Jann Pollard. Her friend Marty Clarke was her constant painting companion.

Image of "Reflecting Reeds,' zen-like watercolor by Nancy Hauk

Capturing Essence, Like John Steinbeck

Most of the works in the Pacific Grove Library exhibition were painted between 2000 and 2010. They include French vignettes, scenes from Steinbeck Country, gardens of ancient adobes in Old Monterey, California, and innovative studies of Spanish missions integrating the decorative motifs that distinguish Mission San Juan Bautista and other churches built by Franciscan missionaries 200 years ago. Some of the selected paintings are incomplete, with the artist’s notes and practice brushstrokes illuminating her creative process as a fine artist. “Reflecting Reeds” (above) demonstrates her Zen-like mastery of meditative line and visual economy.

“Loving Watercolor, Paintings by Nancy Hauk” was curated by Julianne Burton-Carvajal and runs through May 30 in recently restored library gallery space located at 550 Central Avenue, a block from Lighthouse Avenue in downtown Pacific Grove. (Note to Steinbeck lovers visiting Monterey, California in April or May: don’t miss the experience of seeing Steinbeck Country through the eyes of a contemporary fine artist with a talent for capturing the essence of every scene—just as John Steinbeck did when writing about his favorite places from the comfort of his Pacific Grove cottage years ago.)

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  1. Susan Eckert says:

    Nancy is a beautiful lady who has painted amazing watercolors. It has been my pleasure to know Nancy and her husband, Steve, for many years. It has been a joy to see many of these beautiful pieces.

  2. Sally Wirtel says:

    Nancy, Steve and I have known each other since High School in Kirkwood, MO. Only periodically keeping in touch over these many years, I had no idea Nancy was such a gifted artist. I truly love every piece of her work.

  3. Nancy Hauk is not merely a stunningly talented artist, she is also a beautiful human being. When my wife was terminally ill Nancy always had a smile and something to say that made my wife laugh. Nancy’s own laugh is infectious and she is one of the funniest and kindest people I have had the pleasure to know. And now, these beautiful works of art from the hand of a wonderful human being. Lovely.

    Michael Katakis

  4. Susan Miller says:

    Nancy’s paintings are an absolute joy to behold. As Steve continues to find more and more tucked away in notebooks and sketchpads, her talent is becoming more and more apparent. Despite her illness, her spirit is upbeat, her sense of adventure unabated, her sense of fun undiminished, and her eye for artistic detail acute.

  5. Not having known the artist, one can feel a timeless quality to her work. I recall getting the same vibe from seeing Whistler’s work


  1. […] Hauk, an artist, and Steve Hauk, a writer, own the Ricketts home today. Together they operate Hauk Fine Arts, an […]

  2. […] Nancy Hauk, the popular Pacific Grove, California visual artist for whom the Pacific Grove Library’s art gallery is named, died on July 22 after a long illness. With her husband Steve Hauk, the author of short stories based on true events from the life of John Steinbeck, she owned and operated Hauk Fine Arts, the art gallery located near Holman’s department store, a Pacific Grove landmark celebrated in John Steinbeck’s fiction. She grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and graduated with a degree in art history from Connecticut College before moving to Pacific Grove with her husband in the 1960s. Her watercolors—painted at home in California and on trips to France—were featured last year in a well-attended exhibition at the Pacific Grove Library, where John Steinbeck’s wife Carol is thought to have worked when the couple lived in Pacific Grove in the 1930s. Hauk Fine Arts specializes in the work of California artists from John Steinbeck’s era and is located near other local landmarks familiar to Steinbeck fans. These include the Steinbeck family cottage on 11th Street and the former home of Steinbeck’s friend Ed Ricketts, where the Hauks lived until Nancy moved to The Cottages, the Carmel assisted-living apartments where she died peacefully, surrounded by her husband and their daughters Amy and Anne and mourned by friends and fans everywhere. […]

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