of the Arts
DeWitt Clinton McCall III
1936 – 2020
DeWitt Clinton McCall III – “De” was born on June 24, 1936, in Los Angeles to DeWitt Clinton Jr. and Hester Arnetta (Gist) McCall. De was a man of immense integrity and had a passion for serving others.
Born during the Depression and raised on a farm in Willow Brook, California, De’s family sold “poultry, fryers, ducks, eggs, and rabbits” to survive tough times. The resilience of his childhood would instill lifelong values in him – hard work, integrity, and the value of a dollar. De attended Compton High School and Compton College. He was a self-built man.
Following the Korean War, De enlisted and served in the United States Army, deployed in various parts of Europe. He received an honorable discharge following his service.
De had a lifelong passion for woodworking and the arts. This was only rivaled by his passion for fishing. Following his service in the Army, De was employed as a woodworker for McDonnell-Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach. He designed and installed custom interior woodwork for various airlines. In the mid-1960s, De and a friend opened DeJon’s Taxidermy studio in Compton. De would perform “magic” in his artistic ability to bring realistic mounts back to life.
Transitioning into another aspect of his artistic ability, in the late 1960s, De and another friend opened DeRu’s Fine Arts in Bellflower. De began framing pictures but soon evolved into a leader in the industry—the art industry. He developed a niche where he could locate, identify, restore, and bring back to life long-lost profound works of art.
De was an immense collector of early 19th and 20th-century American art, specializing in early California art. He was a leader in this industry, and his legacy has left a lasting impression in the field. De possessed a unique skill of art restoration – he was a self-taught artist and a giant in this unique field. He learned from his mentor Clive Hollingshead. When all else failed, professionals sought his advice on bringing otherwise damaged art back to life. He also was instrumental in publishing numerous art reference books that will continue his and the artists, legacy forever.
De later opened a second art gallery in Laguna Beach and became friends with Joan Irvine Smith, where he became a guiding spirit in the development of the fine art collection at the Irvine Museum.
Through his integrity, strong work ethic, and values, De became good friends with Dr. Evelyn Payne Hatcher, whose parents were renowned early 20th-century painters whose impressionistic works focused on the tribal people, culture, symbols, and landscapes of the American West and Southwest. De eventually assisted Evelyn with managing the enormous estates of Edgar and Elsie Palmer Payne. Before her death, Evelyn transferred all rights to the book, Composition of Outdoor Painting, authored by her father Edgar in 1941, to De and DeRu’s Fine Arts for continued publication.
De McCall passed away peacefully on January 15, 2020. He loved early California, Laguna Beach, and the Eastern Sierra, as many of the art pieces he collected and restored reflect. Although he worked six days a week most of his life, he never considered it work. If you enjoy what you do, it is not really work…De’s memory will forever last in the artwork he restored and his impact on the industry—he will be an inspiration for generations to come.
The publication of the text The Composition of Outdoor Painting as well as the galleries of DeRu’s Fine Arts are currently managed by the heirs of DeWitt Clinton McCall III.
“As a young boy, I remember playing in the eucalyptus and orange groves. I also remember going to the high desert with my folks every year to see the May flowers in bloom and California poppy fields—miles of orange and yellow—bordered by bright green sage, scrub oak, and strands of eucalyptus trees.” De McCall III
Public Museum Collections
Public museum collections with Payne’s works include:
- Utah Museum of Fine Arts at the University of Utah
- Chicago Art Museum
- The University of Nebraska Galleries
- Fleischer Museum (Scottsdale, Arizona)
- Indianapolis Museum of Art
- Laguna Art Museum, California
- National Academy of Design Collection
- National Collection of Fine Arts, Senate Building (Washington D.C.)
- Pasadena Art Institute
- Pasadena Museum of California Art
- Southwest Museum of Los Angeles
- Springville Museum of Art, Springville, Utah
- Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, California
- Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota