Saturday, February 19, 2011

A bit of California art history

Diane Ryan (who often teaches Orange County history classes) will teach an art appreciation class on California Regionalism beginning later this month. The class runs for five weeks, Feb. 24 to Mar. 24, on Thursdays, from 1:30 to 3:30pm. It will be held at Oasis Senior Center in Corona del Mar. The cost is $40. For more information, contact Diane via email.
She writes, "The late 1920s and early 1930s saw a dramatic change in the art scene. The beautiful landscapes of the California Impressionists were replaced by subject matter reflecting changes taking place in America that transformed the country from a rural agrarian society into an industrialized world power. Come learn about some of the artists of this dynamic period and see how they took watercolor painting into a whole new dimension."
She's definitely playing my song, since I love the work of artists like Millard Sheets, Milford Zornes, Phil Paradise, etc. The image at the top of today's post is a Phil Dike painting called "Regatta," which served as the cover of the Aug. 1956 issue of Western Family Magazine. Note the Balboa Pavilion in the background.
Some time ago, I stumbled across a great website where you can order prints of works by many of the best California Regionalists / California Scene Painters / California Watercolor School artists. It's called (not surprisingly) The Mary Blair painting, "Beach Party," shown above, is one of the thousands of prints available, as are the two paintings below.
The watercolor above is "Moore Hill, Los Angeles, 1940," by one of my favorite artists, Emil Kosa, Jr. The one below is "California Coast, 1936" by another favorite, Rex Brandt.
If you can't take Diane's class but still want a good introduction to the style, I recommend finding a copy of American Scene Painting: California, 1930s and 1940s by Ruth Westphal and Janet Blake Dominik.
Orange County was lucky enough to have many of these artists living and working here. Rex Brandt and Phil Dike even ran a summer school in Newport Beach, influencing generations of local artists.
Moreover, key collectors like E. Gene Crain, and authors and experts on the subject, like Gordon McClelland, live here. And every five years or so, some museum or another manages a retrospective of this kind of work. Being in the midst of all this is just one more reason to like Orange County.


Doug said...

Great art work Chris. Takes one back to another era.
Another good reference is "Made in California: Art, Images and Identity 1900-2000", published by the LACMA.
Similar images are represented in this volume as well as an overview of art and objects from California. Some of the modern "art works", make one wish for a return to the past.

Major Pepperidge said...

I love the watercolors of Emil Kosa Jr., he did so many of downtown Los Angeles, with plenty of construction going on. Long ago, my grandmother almost bought a painting by him, but decided it was ugly (she leaned towards pretty California impressionist paintings). Too bad, since this was before most Kosa paintings had gone up so dramatically.

Chris Jepsen said...

Oh, I think we all have "kick yourself" stories about art we should have purchased.