Editor's note: The Wildling Art Museum provided source material to Resource Library Magazine for the following article. If you have questions or comments regarding the source material, please contact the Wildling Art Museum directly through either this phone number or Web address:


Along the Way: Ray Strong Landscape Painter


Ray Strong, often referred to as the "dean" of Santa Barbara landscape painting, will be the subject of the summer exhibition at the Wildling Art Museum, opening to the public on June 30, 2002.  The exhibition of over 35 oil paintings, entitled "Along the Way: Ray Strong Landscape Painter," will have representative works from almost every decade of the artist's life. While some of these monumental landscape paintings of the coastal hills and undulating Santa Barbara back-country are familiar from reproductions, others loaned from the Strong Family Trust, have never been seen by outsiders. Some from the early part of Strong's career, are scenes from the southwest, including the Grand Canyon and Canyon de Chelly

According to Arturo Tello, the curator of the exhibition and a close friend of Strong's since 1981, what distinguishes this exhibition from earlier exhibits of the artist's work, is this intimacy.  Each of these small, but important, paintings, is layered not only with the wise and thoughtful technique of a man who always seeks to "get the feel of the earth's volume and substance, and the forces that underlie the surface," but also with a deep emotional expression of a man who loves his wife, his family, his friends and his world. (right: Ray Strong (1905-    ), Indian Summer, 1936, oil on masonite, Strong Family Trust)

Ray Strong was born in 1905 in Corvallis, Oregon, and received his early training from private teachers, as well as at the California School of Fine Arts  (now the San Francisco Art Institute), and the Art Students' League in New York, where he studied with Frank Vincent DuMond.  As Strong has often said, he learned most studying directly from Nature. During the Depression, he worked for the federal Public Works for Art Project painting murals and dioramas. Some of these were seen and admired by Ventress L. VanderHoof, who later became the Director of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, and in 1960 Dr. VanderHoof invited Strong to Santa Barbara to paint nine dioramas for the new Bird Habitat Hall. When the commission was completed, Strong and his wife, Betty, elected to remain in Santa Barbara, where Strong refined his approach to landscape painting, co-founded the Santa Barbara Art Institute, and influenced a whole generation of younger plein air painters, known as "The Oak Group."

In tribute to Ray Strong, the Wildling Museum is publishing a monograph about his life and work with essays by Arturo Tello, Larry Iwerks, Michael Whitt, and Gloria Rexford Martin, with a foreword by Dennis Power, former Director of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, and full-color illustrations of many of the paintings in the exhibition. Strong himself will be present to autograph these at the opening reception June 30, 3-5 p.m. The exhibition will continue through September 8, 2002


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

Editor's note: RL readers may enjoy

Ray Strong at 98, article by Michael Whitt (2/20/03)

Ranchos: The Oak Group Paints the Santa Barbara Countryside (6/4/98)

Ray Strong: A Collector's Passion is a 2019 exhibit at the Wildling Museum of Art and Nature which says: "The show features 32 paintings by renowned Santa Barbara artist Ray Strong (1905-2006), loaned by David Parker of Goleta.  While several pieces have been shown at venues throughout the county, this is the first time the entire collection will be shown together." Accessed 5/19

Ray Strong: Beyond Santa Barbara is a 2015 exhibit at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art which says: "This intimate presentation of six paintings and drawings features landscapes and cityscapes produced outside of the Santa Barbara area created during a 45-year period, offering a view of Strong's travels and his lifelong interest in depicting the environment around him." Accessed 8/18

and this video:

California's Green #125 - SANTA BARBARA ARTISTS is a 28 minute 2006 video by Huell Howser Productions. "Some people talk about the environment. Others actually do something proactive about it... Like the group of 26 Santa Barbara artists who founded the Outdoor Airing Club more than 20 years ago. The O.A.K. Group, as it is known, is made up of artists who paint magnificent, unspoiled open spaces threatened by development. They then sell these art pieces at a special auction with 50 percent of the profits going to organizations in Santa Barbara County working to preserve our precious and unfortunately disappearing open, natural, landscape... Huell spends a day with some O.A.K. Group members as they painted in three different spectacular locales, and then attends the auction several months later. The resulting episode of California's Green is not only beautiful, bit inspirational as it shows how important a small but dedicated group of people who really care can be." Text courtesy of Huell Howser Productions.
Celebrating the Land: The Art and Passion of Ray Strong. The Wildling Museum says "This is a 45 minute documentary produced by Greenelsh Productions for the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History in 1999 when the artist was 94 years old. Seeing the face and hearing the voice of this remarkable man speaking about himself, his art and his ideas, is a great treat."

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