Florence Griswold Museum

Old Lyme, CT




The California Impressionists at Laguna

June 3 - September 24, 2000

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The Florence Griswold Museum, a museum of American art, announces "The California Impressionists at Laguna," the first East Coast exhibition devoted to California Impressionism and the Laguna Art Colony. Rugged seascapes, bright fields of poppies and majestic California vistas by Guy Rose, William Wendt, Joseph Kleitsch, and Granville Redmond are among the artwork to be exhibited. Drawn from premier private and public collections, the exhibition illustrates how a group of artists forged a unique style of American Impressionism that responded to the light, color, and atmosphere of the West Coast. The Florence Griswold Museum is the only site to present this impressive collection. (left: William Wendt (1865-1946), South Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, 1918, oil on canvas, 12 x 16 inches, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas B. Stiles II)

Organized by Florence Griswold Museum curator Jack Becker, the exhibition consists of twenty-six paintings by over a dozen California artists and selected works by members of the Lyme Art Colony, providing opportunity to compare and contrast the styles and subjects of the Lyme and Laguna Impressionists. The exhibition examines how the colonies contributed to the very identity of their regions; in the case of Laguna as a new Eden of perpetual sunshine, and for Lyme as a place rooted in traditional New England values.

In the early 1900s, at the same time that artists in the East found the idyllic scenes they sought in the gentle countryside along the Connecticut shoreline in Old Lyme, another group discovered the beauty of southern California. Over the course of the next three decades these artists developed two of the nation's most important centers of American Impressionism. The first artists to discover Laguna encouraged fellow painters to join them, in the same way that news of Old Lyme spread among art circles in New York. Unlike the artists of the Lyme Art Colony, who gravitated to a central location, Miss Florence's boarding house, for the summer, the Laguna artists rented rooms or cottages and even set up tent cities along the beach. Over time artists in both colonies established homes and studios and many began teaching classes, popularizing the areas and bringing both amateurs and professionals to the regions. (left: Clarence Hinkle (1880-1960), Overlooking Laguna, c. 1925-30, oil on canvas, 30 x 36 inches, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas B. Stiles II)

Artists on the West Coast, like their counterparts in the East, were introduced to Impressionism through their educational experiences. Many American artists studied in France where they absorbed first hand the use of high-key color and broken brushwork employed by the leaders of French Impressionism. With these lessons in hand, the artists set out to forge a distinctly American style of art that responded to the light, color, and subjects of the specific places where they chose to work. Adapting the Impressionist aesthetic to the diverse American landscape, artists of Laguna Beach set out to capture the "sense of place" ­ its brightly colored sunlight, poppy fields, and eucalyptus groves ­ so distinct to southern California. (left: Joseph Kleitsch (1881-1931), Laguna Canyon, 1923, oil on canvas, 32 x 40 inches, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas B. Stiles II)

The paintings in the exhibition are arranged to represent the different themes depicted by the California artists - the rugged coastline, the undeveloped landscape, the Mission of San Juan Capistrano, and the town of Laguna Beach. Included in each section is artwork by a member of the Lyme Art Colony to compare the subjects and styles of these two distinct centers of American Impressionism. Historical photographs provide perspective as to how the artists in each colony lived and worked. (left: Joseph Kleitsch (1881-1931), Curiosity, c. 1923-24, oil on canvas, 25 x 30 inches, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas B. Stiles II)

The works on view illustrate the diversity of "plein air" styles developed by Laguna artists. In Under a Blue Sky George Gardner Symons interprets the kinetic forces of the ocean with boldly applied strokes of pigment. Guy Rose, in contrasts, suggests more subtle distinctions in atmosphere and color in his Laguna Shores. The coastline of Connecticut River did not provide the Old Lyme artists with such dramatic subjects. Instead, they turned their attention to intimate views of winding tidal rivers and salt-water marshes as seen in Childe Hassam's Late Afternoon Sunset.

Accompanying the exhibition will be a full color catalogue with essays by William H. Gerdts, Professor Emeritus of Art History Graduate School of the City University of New York and Curator Jack Becker. "Interest in American Impressionism, and the art colonies where some of the most important works in that style were produced, has risen over the past decade," explains Professor Gerdts. "The artists who were a part of these colonies enjoyed successful careers. However, knowledge and public viewing of their accomplishments beyond their immediate geographic environment is lacking. "The California Impressionists at Laguna" offers East Coast audiences the rare opportunity to experience the light, landscape, and beauty of Laguna as seen through the eyes of West Coast Impressionists. The fact that the setting for the exhibition is the site where Lyme Art Colony artists were working at the same time gives the audience a deeper appreciation of all the artists and their work." (left: Granville Redmond (1871-1935), Silver and Gold, c. 1918, oil on canvas, 30 x 40 inches, Collection of the Orange County Museum of Art LAM/OCMA Art Collection Trust, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. J. G. Redmond)

The California Connection:

California painting spurned by Lyme artists revealed for the first time during this exhibition. In the late 1920s Laguna Beach artist Robert Dudley Fullonton (1876-1933) stayed at Miss Florence's boarding house in Old Lyme, CT. He was invited by the artists of the Lyme Art Colony to paint a panel on the dining room wall. This was considered a great honor among the artists. It was a tradition that the founder of the colony, Henry Ward Ranger, imported from French hostelries in Barbizon, Giverny and Pont Aven. Over 30 artists eventually left their mark on the walls and panels of the Museum, leaving a legacy unique to the Griswold House. Fullonton's contribution was a vibrant view of the Carmel coast Northern California. Unfortunately Fullonton left without paying his bill and, out of respect for Miss Florence, the other artists turned his panel to the wall and had William Chadwick paint a Connecticut landscape on the other side. The painting will be turned over to reveal Fullonton's panel for the first time and only for the limited run of "The California Impressionists at Laguna." (left: Robert Dudley Fullonton, Rocky Seacoast, dining room panel, Florence Griswold Museum)



Resource Library features these essays concerning Southern California art:

The American Scene: Regionalist Painters of California 1930-1960: Selections from the Michael Johnson Collection by Susan M. Anderson

Dream and Perspective: American Scene Painting in Southern California by Susan M. Anderson

Modern Spirit: The Group of Eight & Los Angeles Art of the 1920s by Susan M. Anderson

A Seed of Modernism: The Art Students League of Los Angeles, 1906-53 by Julia Armstrong-Totten, Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick, and Will South

The Arts in Santa Barbara by Janet Blake Dominik

Ranchos: The Oak Group Paints the Santa Barbara Countryside by Ellen Easton

Speculative Terrain - Recent Views of the Southern California Landscape from San Diego to Santa Barbara by Gordon L. Fuglie

Sampler Tour of Art Tiles from Catalina Island by John Hazeltine

Mission San Juan Capistrano: An Artistic Legacy by Gerald J. Miller

Loners, Mavericks & Dreamers: Art in Los Angeles Before 1900 by Nancy Moure

Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, and the Eucalyptus School in Southern California by Nancy Moure

San Diego Beginnings by Martin E. Petersen

Keeping the Faith: Painting in Santa Catalina 1935-1985 by Roy C. Rose

The Art Student League of Los Angeles: A Brief History by Will South

Artists in Santa Catalina Island Before 1945 by Jean Stern

The Development of Southern California Impressionism by Jean Stern

The Legacy of the Art Students League: Defining This Unique Art Center in Pre-War Los Angeles by Julia Armstrong-Totten

The Development of an Art Community in the Los Angeles Area by Ruth Westphal

A Bit of Paris in Heart Mountain by Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick

A Seed of Modernism: The Art Students League of Los Angeles, 1906-53 by Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick and Julia Armstrong-Totten

The Historic Landscapes of Malibu by Michael Zakian

and these articles:

California Impressionists at Laguna is a 2000 exhibit at the Florence Griswold Museum organized by Florence Griswold Museum curator Jack Becker, the exhibition consists of twenty-six paintings by over a dozen California artists and selected works by members of the Lyme Art Colony, providing opportunity to compare and contrast the styles and subjects of the Lyme and Laguna Impressionists. The exhibition examines how the colonies contributed to the very identity of their regions; in the case of Laguna as a new Eden of perpetual sunshine, and for Lyme as a place rooted in traditional New England values. (left: William Wendt (1865-1946), South Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, 1918, oil on canvas, 12 x 16 inches, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas B. Stiles II)

Circles of Influence: Impressionism to Modernism in Southern California Art 1910-1930 is a 2000 exhibit at the Orange County Museum of Art which thematically explores Southern California's early twentieth-century artistic development -- from the expanding influences of East Coast artists, to the building of local art organizations striving for independent expression, and finally the early stirrings of avant-garde Modernism. Presenting over seventy paintings, drawn from public and private collections, the exhibition will focus attention on the progressive artists of Los Angeles and their response to national and international art movements.

Clarence Hinkle: Modern Spirit and the Group of Eight is a 2012 exhibition at the Laguna Art Museum which features over one hundred paintings dating from the early 1900s through the 1950s, and includes many paintings that were in the original exhibitions of the Group of Eight, especially their 1927 show at the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science, and Art.

The Fieldstone Collection: Impressionism in Southern California, a 1999 exhibit at the the William D. Cannon Art Gallery, includes approximately 40 works, created between the late 1800s and early 1900s, depict the natural landscapes of the region in the "plein air" style of the French Impressionists.

The Final Eden: Early Images of the Santa Barbara Region is a 2002 Wildling Art Museum exhibit of paintings, watercolors and prints depicting the Central Coast of California between 1836 and 1960 and celebrating "its rural pristine and fertile nature," selected by guest curator, Frank Goss. It is his thesis that the paradise that once was California, a land of boundless resources and unlimited opportunities, has shrunk through urbanization and exploitation, and the Central Coast, not yet paved over, is "the Final Eden." (left: John Hall Esq. (1808 - ?), "Santa Barbara-Upper California," 1836, hand-colored lithograph.. Lent by Eric Hvolboi

First Generation: Art in Claremont, 1907-1957 is a 2008 exhibit at the Claremont Museum of Art, which traces the art history of Claremont and the region in the first 50 years after the city's incorporation in 1907.

On a clear day a century ago, one could see the peak of Mt. Baldy from virtually every corner of the Los Angeles basin, from ocean to desert. The original inhabitants of this area, the Tongva/Gabrielino Indians, called the mountain "Yoát," or snow. Its siren song has drawn generations of settlers to its shadow. Since the late 19th century, prominent artists have been among those attracted to the foothills of Mt. Baldy and its neighboring peaks-and the city of Claremont, in particular.The exhibit traces the art history of the region, from the work of such artists as Hannah Tempest Jenkins, Emil Kosa, Jr., and William Manker to that of Millard Sheets and his circle in the 1930s. Sheets's influence as artist and teacher extended as well to bringing artists such as Henry Lee McFee, Phil Dike, and Jean Ames to Scripps College, thereby enhancing the existing art community and assuring its lasting influence.

Greetings from Laguna Beach: Our Town in the Early 1900s is a 2000 Laguna Art Museum exhibit which illustrates Laguna's early history through 20 landscapes painted by some of the town's earliest artist residents as well as historical photos and a room-sized installation of a typical period cottage. The paintings include works by Franz A. Bischoff, Conway Griffith , Clarence Kaiser Hinkle, Joseph Kleitsch Millard Sheets, William Wendt, and Karl Yens.

L.A. RAW: Abject Expressionism in Los Angeles 1945-1980, From Rico Lebrun to Paul McCarthy is a 2012 exhibit at the Pasadena Museum of California Art. The figurative artists, who dominated the postwar Los Angeles art scene until the late 1950s, have largely been written out of today's art history. This exhibition, part of the Getty Foundations initiative "Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980," traces the distinctive aesthetic of figurative expressionism from the end of World War II, bringing together over 120 works by forty-one artists in a variety of media -- painting, sculpture, photography, and performance

The Legacy of the California Art Club in San Diego chronicles the history of art in San Diego, California from the turn of the 20th century through the beginning of the present century.

Painted Light: California Impressionist Paintings from the Gardena High School Los Angeles Unified School District Collection, hosted by CSU Dominguez Hills in 1999, features works by Franz A. Bischoff, Jessie Arms Botke (1883-1971), Maurice Braun (1877-1941), Benjamin Chambers Brown, Alson Skinner Clark, Leland S. Curtis, Maynard Dixon, Victor Clyde Forsythe, John (Jack) Frost, Joe Duncan Gleason, Armin Carl Hansen, Sam Hyde Harris, Clarence Kaiser Hinkle, Frank Tenney Johnson, Emil Jean Kosa, Jr., Jean Mannheim, Peter Nielsen, Edgar Alwin Payne, Hanson Duvall Puthuff, John Hubbard Rich, Carl Clemens Moritz Rungius, Walter Elmer Schofield, Clyde Eugene Scott, Jack Wilkinson Smith, James Guifford Swinnerton, Marion Kavanagh Wachtel, William Wendt (1865-1946) and Orrin Augustine White.

Painted Light: California Impressionist Paintings: The Gardena High School/Los Angeles Unified School District Collection toured to The Irvbine Museum in 1999.

Representing LA, Pictorial Currents in Contemporary Southern California Art, featured at the Frye Museum in 2000, is the first group exhibition to explore the rich and varied representational painting, drawing, printmaking, and sculpture produced by Southern California artists from 1990 to 2000, and fills a gap in West Coast and Southern California art history by surveying and interpreting about 80 works by 70 artists working in representational or realist styles and approaches.

Read more on the Florence Griswold Museum.in Resource Library Magazine

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.


This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 2/28/11

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