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Winds of Change: Progressive Artists, 1915-1935

April 6 - September 2, 2006


The plein-air style was the most popular art style in the southern California art community from about 1895 to 1930. However, by the mid-1920's, American art experienced a series of dramatic transformations that would reach all the way to California. Gone were the classic compositions of the plein air painters. The new generation of artists turned to new styles, characterized by a move away from the traditional, toward more progressive approaches to painting. European inspired Modernism, first shown in New York in 1913 at the momentous International Exhibition of Modern Art, better known as the Armory Show, found ready converts among this new generation of artists.

When compared to the plein-air style, the work of Modernist artists tends to favor overall flatter surface designs instead of portraying realistic three-dimensional effects of natural depth. The forms they create usually follow rhythmic lines that echo or complement each other. Moreover, they tend to intensify colors in larger, simpler brushstrokes and simplify forms such as houses, hills, and trees by using stylized sets of patterns.

Among the artists that will be represented in "Winds of Change" are Frank Myers (1899-1956), Elanor Colburn (1899-1939), Emil Kosa, Jr. (1903-1968), Francis Todhunter (1884-1963), Phil Paradise (1905-1997) and Mischa Askenazy (1881-1961).


Frank Myers (1899-1956), The Charleston, 1926


Frank Myers enrolled at the Cincinnati Art Academy in 1917, and in 1922, Myers began his teaching career at there. Myers' work included portraits as well as landscapes and urban scenes, painted in an impressionistic realism. Gradually, he developed a strong sense of abstract design, and in the late 1920's, produced a number of remarkably advanced paintings in an analytical style, bordering on abstraction, as can be seen in his painting The Charleston, 1926. In 1940, he moved to Monterey, California, where he was a vital force in the Monterey Peninsula art world for 16 years. After moving to California his work was almost exclusively seascapes, with a few portrait commissions.



Elanor Colburn (1899-1939), Bathing Baby


Elanor Colburn, studied and later taught art in Chicago before moving to Laguna Beach in 1924. She and her daughter Ruth Peabody built a studio where they lived, painted and taught. Her early works were Impressionist in style, however, after 1927 her constant experiments and pursuits of intellectual art concepts made her highly respected among her fellow artists. In her painting Bathing Baby, we see the use of Dynamic Symmetry, a theory of design, that at one time many artists followed as an aid to achieving the perfect composition. One can see by the pencil lines underneath the paint, how she uses various angles at the same time, shifting the perspective.



Emil Kosa, Jr. (1903- 1968), Untitled, Telegraph Hill


Kosa was born in Paris and was just a child when moving to the United States. The family later moved to Czechoslovakia and that's when Kosa began to study art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, at the age of fourteen. He moved to California and studied at the California Art Institute in Los Angeles and later at the French national art school, the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. While in Europe he received instruction from a French artist Franz Kupka, one of the pioneers of abstraction in modern painting. This provided Kosa with a firsthand encounter with Modernism. A prolific painter in oils and watercolors, Kosa specialized in contemporary views of downtown Los Angeles as seen in his painting, Untitled, Telegraph Hill, using bold shapes, bright colors and dramatic lighting. He also is known for his dramatic views of rolling hills and farms around Los Angeles.



Francis Todhunter (1884-1963), Spring at Geenbrae


Todhunter was born in San Francisco, CA. He began his career in art as an illustrator. Later he worked in New York as a commercial artist until 1912, when he returned to San Francisco to become the art director for H.K. McCann Company. Todhunter's work includes etchings, lithographs and landscapes of the San Francisco Bay area and Marin County where his painting Spring of Greenbrae was painted. This is a typical scene from the Regionalist period. His forms are rendered in simplified blocks giving a flatter appearance.



Phil Paradise (1905-1997), The Corral, c. 1941


Paradise moved to California with his family at an early age. He studied art in Los Angeles at the Chouinard Art Institute. He was an instructor at Chouinard from 1931-41. Then he worked as a production designer for Saul Lesser Productions and later became director of the Cambria Summer Art School. His early works were Regionalist in style and subject matter; whereas, during the 1940's he developed a more stylized approach with subjects drawn from his travels to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. Paradise had a deep love and appreciation for horses and painted them often. In his painting The Coral, c, 1941, we see the moody, restrained energy of these stallions, possibly caused by the violent storm brewing in the shadow.



Mischa Askenazy (1881-1961), Sunset Boulevard


At the age of four, Askenazy immigrated with his parents to New York City. He studied at the National Academy of Design and upon winning a scholarship, he traveled to France and Italy to study for two years. A portrait commission brought him to Montecito, California. Charmed by the California climate, he decided to settle in Los Angeles, where he painted for the rest of his life. His works, which show the influence of Cezanne, includes portraits, figure studies, still life and landscapes in oil, pastel and watercolor. In Sunset Boulevard, he uses oblique lines to create drama, and uses color to portray the feeling

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