A Seed of Modernism: The Art Students League of Los Angeles, 1906-1953


Exhibition catalogue essays

The Legacy of the Art Students League: Defining This Unique Art Center in Pre-War Los Angeles, by Julia Armstrong-Totten
A Bit of Paris in Heart Mountain, by Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick
The Art Student League of Los Angeles: A Brief History, by Will South
essays © Pasadena Museum of California Art


Exhibition overview

Founded in 1906 as a school for modern painting in defiance of the academic tradition, the Art Students League of Los Angeles was a crucial institution in the development of Southern California art. Its early instructors taught in the Realist style of the Ashcan School until Stanton Macdonald-Wright assumed the directorship in 1923 and gave the school a new vitality. During his nine-year tenure, the League became a diverse center, stressing the art of as the Middle and Far East as well as Western Europe. When Macdonald-Wright stepped down in 1932, artists such as Lorser Feitelson and Benji Okubo directed the school, and a unique style developed at the League -- the blending of Japanese art techniques and themes along with Macdonald-Wright's color theories. After Pearl Harbor and during the incarceration of Japanese Americans, the school languished and eventually dispersed, but not before former Macdonald-Wright students Okubo and Hideo Date established a branch of the Art Students League at the Heart Mountain Concentration Camp in Wyoming.

A Seed of Modernism: The Art Students League of Los Angeles, 1906-53, organized by the Pasadena Museum of California Art, comprises the first comprehensive museum exhibition detailing the fascinating history of this group of gifted artists. Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick and Julia Armstrong-Totten are guest curators. A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition and may be purchased in the Museum's book store.

rev. 3/31/11


Resource Library editor's note:

The above essays were reprinted, without illustrations, in Resource Library on March 4, 2008 with the permission of the Pasadena Museum of California Art. For more information please contact the museum through either this phone number or web address: (626) 568-3665 http://www.pmcaonline.org/. Resource Library wishes to extend appreciation to Jenkins Shannon and Maureen St. Gaudens for their help concerning permissions for reprinting the above texts.

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

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists. Following are examples of artworks created by artists referenced in the above article. Artworks and/or photographs shown may not be specific to this article and are likely not cited in it. All images were obtained via Wikimedia Commons, which believes the images to be freely available for presentation here.  Another source readers may find helpful is Google Images. 


(above: Mabel Alvarez, Photograph courtesy of the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, c. 1915.  Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)


(above: Stanton Macdonald-Wright, Mural for the Santa Monica Library: Prologue (mountain tops), between 1934 and 1935, 28.5 x 60 inches, Smithsonian American Art Museum. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)


Also see:

California Art History

California Artists: 19th-21st Century

California Impressionism

California Regionalism and California School of Painters

This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 5/28/11

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