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Moods of California

February 23, 2002 - June 15, 2002


For Spring, 2002, The Irvine Museum offers a show that portrays California as experienced by three differing yet equally passionate artistic points of view. Percy Gray (1869-1952), a superb watercolorist who was fascinated by the soft, gentle light and haze of northern California; Paul Grimm (1887-1974), a landscape painter who in his later years moved to Palm Springs and became famous for paintings of the desert; and Emil Kosa, Jr. (1903-1968) who became one of Hollywood's best known scenic painters and set designers, while distinguishing himself as a bold painter of urban Los Angeles as well as light-filled views of the countryside.

Henry Percy Gray was born on October 3, 1869, in San Francisco. After completing a course of art study at the California School of Design, in San Francisco, Gray moved to New York City in 1895, where he worked as an illustrator for the New York Journal and took classes at the Art Students League with William Merritt Chase. When the earthquake and fire devastated San Francisco in 1906,
Gray returned home where he went to work for the Examiner. The highlight of his career with the Examiner was when he was sent to New York to sketch the proceedings of the Harry Thaw trial for the murder of architect Sanford White.

After 1915, Gray began to dedicate more time to landscape painting. Although he also worked in oil, he is best known for his paintings in watercolor, specializing in views of native wildflowers, stands of oaks, and groups of elegant eucalyptus shrouded in fog. In interviews, he noted that he was not so much painting the scene as he was painting the atmosphere. Percy Gray died on October 10, 1952, in San Francisco.

Paul Grimm was born on January 11, 1887, in South America, and came to America with his family in 1899, settling in Rochester, New York. At the age of eighteen, he won an art scholarship to study at the Royal Academy in Düsseldorf, Germany. (left: Paul Grimm (1892-1974), Approaching Storm, oil on canvas, 36 x 46 inches)

He came to California in 1919 and resided in Hollywood. There he supported himself by doing design and advertising work as well as by painting backdrops for early Hollywood studios. He moved to Palm Springs in 1932 and remained there for the rest of his life.

Grimm's early works are magnificent views of the California landscape, highlighted by dramatic, cloud-filled skies. After he settled in Palm Springs, he became the most renowned of the California desert painters. He won early popular fame, and his studio-gallery there became a familiar stop for residents and tourists. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was one of his best known patrons. Grimm died in Palm Springs on December 30, 1974.

Emil Kosa, Jr. was born in Paris, France, on November 28, 1903. The son of a French artist, Kosa came to the United States with his family at the age of four. He studied art at the California Art Institute, in Los Angeles and later, at the École des Beaux-Arts, in Paris.

A prolific painter in oils and watercolors, Kosa specialized in contemporary views of downtown Los Angeles and dramatic views of the rolling hills and farms of southern California. He spent 35 years as a scenic artist and special effects painter in Hollywood, working for 20th Century Fox and other studios. He was well respected in the movie industry and won an Academy Award for his work in the 1963 film epic "Cleopatra." He died in Los Angeles on November 4, 1968.


Resource Library editor's note:

For biographical information on artists referenced in this article please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists

This article was originally published in 2002.

Rev. 8/27/09

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