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California Landscapes

June 3 through August 21, 2005


(above: Marie Boening Kendall, Untitled, oil on canvas, 19 1/2 x 24 inches. Promised gift)


Artists over the last century have been inspired by the climate, the quality of light, and the varied topography of Southern California. California Landscapes, organized by Director of Collections Sue Ann Robinson, features works from the Museum's permanent collection and loans from private and rarely exhibited Southern California collections. From Hemet to the High Sierras, from San Diego to Santa Barbara, artists have been inspired by the natural beauty of the Golden State. Featuring a broad variety of media, including photography, drawing, watercolor, oil, acrylic, ceramic, and wood, California Landscapes spans the 100 years from 1904 to 2004. (right: Dana Bartlett, May 15th (detail), 1941, oil on canvas, 30 x 36 1/2 inches. Collection of the Long Beach Museum of Art)

Among the artists included are California plein air painters Franz Bischoff, Marion K. Wachtel, William Griffith, Jean Mannheim and Dana Bartlett; California Scene painters Phil Dike, Emil Kosa, Charles Keck and George Gibson; and contemporary artists Astrid Preston, Sharon Ellis, Paul Alexander and David Hockney. This exhibition is generously sponsored by The Gordon and Ruth Dougherty Foundation, Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCoy, R.K. Properties, Jean and Charles Lane, Daniel and Pamela Munzer, Ania and Michael Sullivan, Long Beach View and Yellow Book USA.


(above left: George Henry Melcher, Santa Monica Bay, 1939, oil on canvas, 24 x 30 inches. Collection of the Long Beach Museum of Art; above right: George Henry Melcher, Two Old Veterans, 1938, oil on canvas, 24 x 30 inches. Collection of the Long Beach Museum of Art)


California Landscapes

by Sue Ann Robinson

Over the past 100 years, artists have been inspired by the climate, quality of light and varied terrain of Southern California. California Landscapes features works from the permanent collection of the Long Beach Museum of Art, complemented by loans from rarely-exhibited Southern California collections. California Landscapes spans the hundred years from 1904 to 2004, and features work in a broad variety of media including photography, drawing, watercolor, oil and acrylic painting. The exhibition is arranged in loose chronological order around three major groupings: Early California landscape from the first third of the 20th century, California Scene paintings of the 1930s-1950s, and contemporary works offering a pictorial tour through both time and terrain.

Early California landscapes from the 1900s to the 1930s include canvases by Franz Bischoff, William Griffith, Jean Mannheim, Maurice Braun and Dana Bartlett. Many of these painters were immigrants who received their training in Europe or in cities east of the Mississippi River. Aware of European landscape traditions, these early émigrés to California often painted out-of-doors, en plein air, under the intense Southern California light. Often traveling from coast to mountains and setting up their easels out-of-doors, these artists captured light glinting off mountain streams or settling above the dusky desert. They created a distinct type of painting, different than French Impressionism, called "California Impressionism."

American-born artists of the same generation like George Henry Melcher, who was born in 1881 in Pennsylvania and studied art in Philadelphia, also worked in this early plein air tradition. Melcher acquired a ranch in Topanga, California around 1910, and many of his paintings depict the land he loved. Melcher's Santa Monica Bay is an example of one of many paintings made possible through the easel painting program of the Federal Works Progress Administration.

Dana Bartlett, an American-born contemporary of many of the artist émigrés, was born in this country in 1882, studied on the east coast, and traveled to Europe. He came to Los Angeles in 1915 and joined the staff of the influential Chouinard School of Art in 1924, a significant school for a future generation of California artists.

The second section of the exhibition features California Scene painters from the 1930s to the 1950s, including Leon Amyx, Rex Brandt, Phil Dike, Millard Sheets, Leonard Cutrow, Roger Kuntz, Emil J. Kosa, Jr. This new generation of painters was mostly California-born and trained, many at the Chouinard School of Art. Like their predecessors, the California Scene painters actively painted out-of-doors and took advantage of easy access to mountains, coasts and deserts ­ plus the growing man-made environment ­ for their inspiration. While continuing to work in oil, they also utilized easily portable watercolors to capture light and shadow, mass and sky. In their hands, watercolors became independent art works in their own right and not solely preliminary sketches for oil paintings. Watercolor enabled them to work quickly and spontaneously with bold brushstrokes to capture the vibrant energy of the local scene.

Contemporary artists continue to be inspired by Southern California. In Los Angeles County one of the most characteristic features of the contemporary landscape is the freeway. Despite the freeway's prominent presence, it is refreshing to realize that the geographic center point of Los Angeles County is still wild and unpaved, and that artists continue to explore the natural beauty of the region. The conjunction of the built environment and the natural wonders of the region are explored by artists from Long Beach, including Fern Bowen, Michiel Daniel, Carl Aldana and Sarah Arnold. California Landscapes explores nature as a symbol in human life and how it remains a potent source of inspiration for artists.

About the author

Sue Ann Robinson is Director of Collections at the Long Beach Museum of Art


(above: Jean Mannheim, Arroyo Secco, c. 1919, oil on canvas, 19 1/2 x 33 1/2 inches. Collection of the Long Beach Museum of Art)

About the Long Beach Museum of Art

Located on a magnificent bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, The Long Beach Museum of Art features a schedule of changing exhibitions, artmaking workshops for all ages, an historic mansion and carriage house, expansive galleries and gardens, oceanfront dining at Claire's at the Museum and a gift store. The Museum's permanent collection includes approximately 5000 paintings, drawings, sculptures, works on paper, and decorative arts objects (furnishings and accessories). Particular strengths lie in 300 years of American decorative arts objects, early 20th century European art, California Modernism, and contemporary art of California.

The Museum is located at 2300 East Ocean Boulevard, Long Beach, CA 90803. For hours and admission fees please see the Museum's website.

(above: Emil Kosa, Jr., Port Hueneme, 1937, watercolor on paper, 14 x 22 inches. Promised gift)


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