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Scene in Oakland, 1852-2002: Artworks Celebrating the City's 150th Anniversary

 

In the 1870s, the busy corner of Madison and Eighth Streets near downtown Oakland was a grove of oak trees. Ferdinand Richardt's painting documenting this scene is just one of 66 artworks in the exhibition Scene in Oakland, 1852-2002: Artworks Celebrating the City's 150th Anniversary, on view at the Oakland Museum of California from March 9 through August 25, 2002. The exhibition of paintings, drawings, watercolors and photographs dating from 1852 to 2002 features views of Oakland by 48 prominent California artists. The scenes depicted include a wide variety of the city's landmarks, districts, architecture and activities. (left: William Henry Capp, Winter Scene, 1920-1930, oil on canvas, 18 x 15 inches, Oakland Museum of California Collection)

The exhibition was developed in honor of the 150th anniversary of the incorporation of the city of Oakland by the California legislature on May 4, 1852. Scene in Oakland and its companion exhibition Being There: 45 Oakland Artists are two of a number of events planned by Oakland cultural organizations to celebrate the city's birthday.

Most of the artworks in the exhibition are from the art and history collections of the Oakland Museum of California. Included are works by Albert Bierstadt, William Clapp, Jade Fon, William Hahn, William Keith, Dorothea Lange, Joseph Lee, Xavier Martinez, Mary DeNeal Morgan, Ferdinand Richardt, Louis Siegriest, Peter Stackpole and Bernard von Eichman. Scenes of modern Oakland lent by several contemporary artists include, among others, works by Willard Dixon, Mark Downey, June Felter, Howard Hack, Anthony Holdsworth, Lewis Watts and Jan Lassetter.

The earliest artwork in the exhibition is a pencil and watercolor sketch of lower Broadway by an unknown artist, titled Oakland, May 1854. The sketch resembles a movie set for a frontier town -- a broad, dusty road between two rows of hastily constructed wooden storefront buildings, a grove of native oaks in the distance. (right: Albert Bierstadt, View of Oakland, CA, c. 1870, Oakland Museum of California Collection)

The city's schools and civic buildings are preserved in images such as Richardt's Mrs. Poston's Female Academy -- which, from 1873 to 1880, occupied the present site of the Oakland Museum of California -- and Marius Dahlgren's Alameda County Courthouse, East Oakland, in its original location at the corner of East 14th Street and 20th Avenue.

Lake Merritt, America's first wildfowl sanctuary and now a recreational park for city residents, was a popular subject for painters and photographers. The lake appears in a number of works in the exhibition, from panoramic views of the city, such as Leon Trousset's View of Oakland Across Lake Merritt, circa 1875, to Mary DeNeal Morgan's painting of Lake Merritt from the 1930s showing several "skyscrapers" on the city's skyline that remain there today.

Urban subjects were especially popular in the 1920s and '30s. In 1928, Society of Six painter Bernard von Eichman produced a number of watercolors featuring busy downtown streets, three of which are included in the exhibition. Photographers Willard Van Dyke, Dorothea Lange and, more recently, Lewis Watts found inspiration in Oakland's people in their daily lives, or in some of the city's derelict buildings and neglected neighborhoods. (left: Selden Connor Gile, Joaquin Miller's Home, 1915, oil on canvas, 11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches, Oakland Museum of California Collection)

A few contemporary paintings focus attention on business enterprise. Jan Lassetter's oil The Trojan Horses gives a soft, romantic view of the Port of Oakland's giant cranes on the city's southwest skyline. Other works document the aftermaths of Oakland's calamitous 1989 earthquake and 1991 firestorm.

The exhibition was organized by Harvey L. Jones, senior curator of art at the Oakland Museum of California, and is accompanied by a brochure with reproductions of several artworks representative of the exhibition.

Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Oakland Museum of California in Resource Library Magazine.

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Resource Library features these essays concerning Northern California art:

Jennie V. Cannon: The Untold History of the Carmel and Berkeley Art Colonies, vol. one, East Bay Heritage Project, Oakland, 2012

Landscape Painters of Northern California 1870-1930 by Harvey L. Jones

The Carmel Monterey Peninsula Art Colony: A History by Barbara J. Klein

The San Francisco Art Association by Betty Hoag McGlynn

The Santa Cruz Art League by Betty Hoag McGlynn

The Carmel Art Association by Betty Hoag McGlynn

Monterey: The Artist's View, 1925 - 1945 by Kent Seavey

The Society of Six by Terry St. John

Towards Impressionism in Northern California by Raymond L. Wilson

and these articles:

Artists at Continent's End: The Monterey Peninsula Art Colony, 1875-1907 is a 2006 exhibit organized by the Crocker Art Museum, including some 70 paintings, photographs and works on paper drawn from museums and private collections throughout California and beyond. It features work by eight artists of major importance to California's, and America's, art history -- Jules Tavernier, William Keith, Charles Rollo Peters, Arthur Mathews, Evelyn McCormick, Francis McComas, Gottardo Piazzoni and photographer Arnold Genthe. The exhibition also includes the work of more than 25 other artists, both well- and little-known, who each contributed to the reputation of what is now widely recognized as one of America's most important art colonies.

The Art Of Mount Shasta is a 2010 Turtle Bay Museum at the Turtle Bay Exploration Park exhibit for which William Miesse and Robyn G. Peterson, Ph.D, co-curators, say; "Most of the works in this exhibition, lent by museums, institutions, and private collections from around the country, stem from that San Francisco Art Boom. And these paintings are only the tip of the iceberg relative to the large number of Mount Shasta paintings in museums and private collections around the country. The current exhibition is representative of the extensive art history of the Mount Shasta region."

The Lighter Side of Bay Area Figuration is a 2000 Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art exhibit which contains 56 humorous, whimsical and satirical works of art by San Francisco Bay artists such as Wayne Thiebaud, Robert Arneson, Roy De Forest, Richard Diebenkorn, and Viola Frey. Comic art in the Bay area began to flourish during the late 1950s in deliberate defiance of New York's avant-garde. San Francisco's distance from the center of commerce and criticism fostered a renegade mentality and a tendency toward personal forms of expression. Bucking mainstream trends by combining humor with lowbrow artistic media and techniques became a badge of honor for many Bay Area artists. The hub of humorous figurative art was the University of California in Davis, a sleepy and relatively remote campus town 70 miles north of San Francisco. Although their aesthetics differed, most of the Davis artists explored humorous narratives, whether in clay sculpture or representational painting. The UC-Davis art department included artists Arneson, De Forest, Thiebaud, Manuel Neri, and William Wiley. There, Thiebaud painted his whimsical still lifes of ordinary objects from gumball machines and yo-yos to pies and cakes, like the exhibition's painting Cakes and Pies, 1994-95. Roy De Forest painted his canvases filled with wild-eyed, pointy eared dogs, and printmaker William Wiley produced his quirky alter ego, "Mr. Unatural." (right: Joan Brown, Portrait of Bob for Bingo, 1960, oil paint oncanvas, 29 x 28 inches, Collection of Joyce and Jay Cooper, AZ, Photo, Jay Cooper)

The Lighter Side of Bay Area Figuration is a 2000 exhibit at the San Jose Museum of Art, a compelling exhibition of approximately 70 works that deftly examines the historical, social, cultural, and aesthetic development of humorous Bay Area art. The exhibition -- the first to identify and examine this genre -- highlights the work of artists associated with the University of California at Davis, such as Robert Arneson, Roy De Forest, and Wayne Thiebaud, and with artists associated with the East Bay, such as Robert Colescott, Joan Brown, M. Louise Stanley, and James Albertson.

Made in California: Art, Image, and Identity, 1900-2000 / Section 1: 1900 - 1920 / Section 2: 1920 - 1940 / Section 3: 1940 - 1960 / Section 4: 1960 - 1980 / Section 5: 1980 - 2000 is a 2000 multi-part exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The exhibition goes beyond a standard presentation of California art to offer a revisionist view of the state and its cultural legacy. It considers both "booster" images of California and other coexisting and at times competing images, reflecting the wide range of interests and experiences of the state's diverse constituencies. The exhibit approaches the past 100 years thematically, presenting works that engage in a meaningful way with the California image. As opposed to a survey exhibition, Made in California moves beyond the established canon of artists and art works to include lesser-known works by celebrated figures as well as a wider range of artists, more in keeping with the diversity of California's population. It is the shared conviction of the exhibition organizers that this approach, intended to initiate a broader dialogue on California art rather than establish a new canon.

Made in Monterey a 2009 exhibition at the Monterey Museum of Art, is a sweeping exhibition of the most beloved and important works from the permanent collection created by artists in Monterey or by those inspired by the region. Beginning with the pioneering artists who sojourned on the Central Coast in the late 19th century (including Jules Tavernier and Raymond Dabb Yelland), the exhibition features significant works of Monterey modernists such as Armin Hansen and Margaret Bruton as well as photography visionaries Edward Weston and Ansel Adams. Two renowned works by Armin Hansen, Nino and Men of the Sea, have been conserved and make their stunning debut in this new presentation.

Majestic California: Prominent Artists of the Early 1900's is a 2007 exhibition at The Irvine Museum. At one time, California was considered a distant Eden, isolated within its own beauty. From snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the desolate splendor of the Mojave Desert; from flower-covered hills to countless secluded valleys and meadows; from the dazzling beaches of the south to the rocky coves of the north, it was a world of its own. The enthralling beauty of California is the principal reason that, starting in the middle of the 19th century, artists began to take the long, hazardous journey to paint its unique splendor. By the early 1900's, California had its own group of prominent artists who proclaimed that beauty throughout the country.

Moods of California, a 2007 exhibition at The Irvine Museum, 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.

The Not-So-Still Life: A Century of California Painting and Sculpture, held in 2003 at the San Jose Museum of Art, includes more than 100 works of art by such artists as Guy Rose, Franz Bischoff, Armin Hansen, Lorser Feitelson, Stanton McDonald-Wright, Hans Burkhardt, Helen Lundeberg, Paul Wonner, Wayne Thiebaud, Mildred Howard, Edward Ruscha, Ed Kienholz, George Herms, Richard Shaw, Peter Shelton, Alan Rath, and Robert Therrien. Divided into three sections: 1900-1930, 1920-1950 and 1950- 2000, the exhibition traces the intriguing evolution of still life in California over the last century. It is a revisionist examination of the genre. According to the curators, what was once the most conservative form of artistic practice has been transformed into one of the more radical forms of expression. Contemporary still life is no longer "still" -- it has not only moved off the table, but off the wall and into three dimensions. The exhibition examines a great variety of styles and media, from Impressionist paintings of apples and oranges to witty ceramic sculpture, funky assemblage art, and electronic media.

Old California is a 2000 exhibition at the California Art Club Gallery featuring original paintings and sculptures inspired by the romance and hardships that built a land named after the 16th century Spanish fable describing the treasure island, "California." The exhibition features prominent genre and figure artists of the California Art Club: Kalan Brunink, William George, Dan Goozeé, Joseph Mendez, Joel Phillips, Vic Riesau, and early CAC artist, Theodore Lukits (1897-1992).

Also see California Art History and Pacific Coast Painting: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington: 19th-21st Centur


Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

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