Early California Art

by Sandy Hunter


George Gibson, Noon Rest, c.1962, w/c

The early California artists painted from the late 1890's to the 1940's. They worked outdoors on location or "plein air." Their oil paintings were considered impressionist and reflected a certain decorated style. The subject mater was the beautiful California landscapes - deserts, mountains, forests, foothills, valleys, canyons, sea shores and islands. These artists were not necessarily born or educated in California, but traveled to and resided in the state.


Alex Ignatiev, Palace of Legion of Honor Park, San Francisco," c.1940


Just as the "plein air" oil painters of California recorded the early history of our time, so did the early watercolor artists, or as they were called "California Regionalists" or "Scene painters." The style of the regionalists was denoted in their broad brush strokes and strong rich colors. This group,of artists was also very important in documenting the day to day life in their work. California scene painting flourished from the 1920's to 1950's.


Sam Colburn, Sugarloaf," c.1938


As a fine art collector you may still find some of these paintings at the California Art Gallery, 305 N. Coast Highway, Suite A, Laguna Beach, CA 92651. You may reach Sandy at (714) 494-7270. We would appreciate your mentioning that you saw this story in out internet magazine.


Editor's note:

This article was originally published in 1997 in Resource Library Magazine with permision of the author. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

Following are further examples of Early California Art. 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: Elmer Wachtel, California Spring Landscape, c. 1020,  watercolor, 9 3/4 x 14 1/2 inches, Smithsonian American Art Museum. Bequest of Mrs. James S. Harlan (Adeline M. Noble Collection). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)


(above: William Wendt (1865-1946), Inyo County, 1926. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)


(above: Granville Richard Seymor Redmond, A Field of California Poppies, 1911, oil on canvas, 26 x 36 inches, Private Collection, Northern California (by family descent to present owner), Bonhams. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)


(above: William Keith, Hetch Hetchy Side Canyon, c. 1908, oil on canvas, 22 x 27.9 inches, De Young Museum. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)


(above: Edgar Alwin Payne, High Sierra, 1921, Steven Stern Fine Arts. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)


(above: Guy Rose (1867-1925), Lifting Fog, Irvine Museum. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)


(above: Francis McComas, Oaks of Monterey, California, 1904, 9.4 x 12.1 inches, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)


*Tag for expired US copyright of object image:

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