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The Final Eden: Early Images of the Santa Barbara Region


Oil paintings, watercolors and prints depicting the Central Coast of California between 1836 and 1960 and celebrating "its rural pristine and fertile nature," have been selected by guest curator, Frank Goss, for the next exhibition at the Wildling Art Museum in Los Olivos, opening April 7, 2002.  Goss has titled the exhibition, "The Final Eden: Early Images of the Santa Barbara Region," because 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 Hvolboil)

According to Goss, artists from the dawn of settlements on the Central Coast, have recognized the Edenic nature of this area, and have celebrated its sensuous beauty through drawings and paintings of the landscape as well as in still-lifes and figurative work.

The earliest image in the exhibition is a small lithograph of 1836 by John Hall Esq. entitled "Santa Barbara--Upper California."  It depicts a Chumash Indian in his canoe paddling along the coast with the Santa Barbara Mission, the Presidio, and the Santa Ynez Mountains in the background.  The most recent is an oil painting by Santa Barbara painter Ray Strong, called "Season's Change, Buellton." (right: Henry Chapman Ford (1828 - 1894), "Cascade at Bartlett's Glen (Bishop's Ranch), Goleta Valley," c.1874, oil on canvas. Lent by Eric Hvolboil.)

The twenty-five paintings in the exhibition have all been borrowed from art dealers and private collectors.  Most of those selected by Goss date from the period 1890 to 1930.  Artists from this period of Santa Barbara's history include Henry Chapman Ford ("Cascade in Bartlett's Glen [Bishop Ranch] Goleta Valley"), Ludmilla Welch ("Butterfly Beach, Channel Drive,"), John Gamble ("Watering Hole, Hope Ranch"), Lockwood de Forest ("Sycamores, Hammond's Beach"), Colin Campbell Cooper, ("Santa Ynez Valley") and Carl Oscar Borg ("San Marcos Pass").  Also included in the exhibition are two large oil paintings of the Santa Ynez Valley: from the 1940's :"Los Olivos," by the Russian-born Mischa Askenazy, and "Song of Spring" by the French-born Emil Kosa, Jr..

"The Final Eden: Early Images of the Santa Barbara Region" will continue through June 23, 2002. The public is invited to the opening reception April 7, 2-5 p.m. Goss will speak briefly about the exhibition at 3:30 p.m., and present a slide lecture on May 29, 7:30 p.m. in the Parish Hall of St. Mark' s Episcopal Church.


The following statement was written by guest curator Frank Goss in connection with the exhibition:

In the middle of the 19th century the first American and European settlers came to California.  The newly formed State offered a land rich with game, one of the most productive agricultural soils in the world, boundless supplies of clean water, a landscape which was varied and beautiful, and an unparalleled climate.  Newcomers were not required to have familial pedigrees, existing fortunes, or specific backgrounds.  The men and women of California were only known by what they accomplished here.  In short California became a contemporary Eden -- a bountiful land without limitation. (left: Emil Kosa, Jr. (1903 - 1968), "Song of Spring," 1940's, oil on canvas. Lent by Gary Breitweiser.)
The State had offered one bonanza after another.  Gold, cattle, railroads, citrus, oil, produce -- the list has evolved today to include the film industry, aerospace, and the "dotcom" world.  California is the fifth largest economy in the world.  The metropolises of Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego became the southern boundary and San Francisco the boundary to the north.  The wide open spaces of much of the State evolved from open land to rangeland, to farmland, to residential areas, to villages, then towns, then cities filled with the requisite industry.  As this process unfolded the Eden that was once the whole of California began to diminish. The open hills became oil fields which, when depleted, became sites for industry.  The sense of a boundless Eden changed. But one region of the State has maintained its rural pristine and fertile nature -- the Central Coast.  Clean air, clean water, fertile land, open ranges, a Mediterranean climate, varied landscapes and, of course, the wide Pacific.  We live in the final Eden.
Painters have recognized this from the dawn of settlements in the Central Coast.  In paintings which focus on landscape, but also include still life and figurative work, the Edenic nature of our paradise is celebrated.


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 articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Wildling Art Museum in Resource Library Magazine

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

This page was originally published in 2002 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

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