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Majestic California: Prominent Artists of the Early 1900's

September 9, 2006 - January 13, 2007


At one time, California was considered a distant Eden, isolated within its own beauty. From snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the desolate splendor of the Mojave Desert; from flower-covered hills to countless secluded valleys and meadows; from the dazzling beaches of the south to the rocky coves of the north, it was a world of its own.

The enthralling beauty of California is the principal reason that, starting in the middle of the 19th century, artists began to take the long, hazardous journey to paint its unique splendor. By the early 1900's, California had its own group of prominent artists who proclaimed that beauty throughout the country.

John Gamble (1869-1957), Paul Grimm (1887-1974), Edgar Payne (1883-1947), Granville Redmond (1871-1935), Guy Rose (1867-1925) and William Wendt (1865- 1946) are perhaps the best known of this school of artists. Each name brings up a picturesque aspect of California's beautiful land. Gamble's paintings of California wild flowers earned him a national reputation. Grimm's desert scenes capture the magnificence of spring, displaying colorful carpets of wildflowers. Payne's work embraced the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada; Redmond is known for majestic oak trees and fields of vivid poppies and lupines; Rose captured the coast with its vast beaches and distinctive rock formation; Wendt was fascinated by the spiritual beauty of green meadows and lush valleys.

John Gamble (1863-1957)
Goleta Point
18x24 inches
Private collection, courtesy of The Irvine Museum
John Gamble entered the San Francisco School of Design in 1886 and then went on to Paris to study. He returned to San Francisco in 1893 to begin his professional career. The devastating earthquake and fire of 1906 destroyed his house, studio and all his possessions. Gamble left San Francisco and settled in Santa Barbara where he remained for the rest of his life, becoming an active member of the arts community and serving on the Santa Barbara Architectural Board of Review as color advisor for new construction.
Gamble's vivid and sometimes glaring paintings of California wildflowers earned him a national reputation. His colors were so bright, that art writers often called his paintings "Gamble's prairie fires."
Paul Grimm (1891-1974)
Desert Springtime
24x18 inches
Private collection, courtesy of The Irvine Museum
Paul Grimm came to California in 1919 and resided in Hollywood. There he supported himself by doing design and advertising work and by painting backdrops for movie studios. After moving to Palm Springs in his later years, he became the most renowned of the California desert painters.
The desert can be hot, dry and give you a feeling of emptiness, until the seasonal flash floods bring a burst of color, filling the desert with spectacular wildflowers, as seen in Grimm's "Desert Springtime."
Edgar Payne (1883-1947)
Rugged Peaks
50x50 inches
Courtesy of The Irvine Museum
Edgar Payne made several trips to California before moving to Glendale in 1917, where he rented an abandoned factory, to execute a major mural commission for the Congress Hotel in Chicago. After that project was completed he and his wife, Elsie Palmer Payne, also an artist, moved to Laguna Beach. Payne was a founding member and first president of the Laguna Beach Art Association.
The peaks and valleys of the California Sierra Nevada Mountains were Payne's favorite painting locales. He excelled in capturing the light and atmosphere of the High Sierras. His Sierra paintings are also evidence of his mastery at revealing the mountain scene in all it's rugged massiveness, together with a sense of isolation and remoteness from the eveyday world.
Granville Redmond (1871-1935)
California Oaks, 1910
30x42 inches
Courtesy of The Irvine Museum
Granville Redmond contracted scarlet fever at the age of two and a half, which left him permanently deaf. In 1874, his family brought him to San Jose, California. Granville was enrolled in a special school, where his artistic talents were recognized. He was taught drawing and pantomime. After graduating, Redmond continued with his art studies at the California School of Design and in 1893, with a stipend from the Institution for the Deaf, he went to Paris where he studied for five years. In 1898, he returned to California and opened a studio in Los Angeles, painting throughout the area.
Redmond was, without question, one of California's leading landscape painters. His patrons favored his cheerful paintings of rolling hills covered with golden poppies and other wildflowers, but Redmond preferred to paint in a moody, introspective style, using dark tones of brown, gold and olive-green, capturing the beauty of the majestic oak trees in the twilight.
Guy Rose (1867-1925)
Incoming Tide, c.1917
24x29 inches
Private collection, courtesy of The Irvine Museum
Guy Rose was the only one of the early plein-air artists to be born in Southern California. Interested in art from his boyhood, Rose attended the San Francisco School of Design. In 1888 he went to Paris and enrolled in the Academie Julian. He was an exceptional student who won every award the school offered.
Rose was greatly influenced by Claude Monet and in 1904 he and his wife Ethel, bought a cottage in Giverny, becoming members of the small American art colony there. It was approximately thirteen years before the couple returned to the United States, first living in New York before moving to Pasadena in 1914.
Rose explored California as an Impressionist subject painting along the coast of La Jolla and Laguna Beach and then in 1918, he made his first of many trips to Carmel and Monterey. Rose developed a serial style of painting similar to Monet, in which the same scene would be depicted at different times of the day. Incoming Tide was painted at Rockledge, a cove in Laguna Beach. It is one of at least five versions of this specific scene.
William Wendt (1865-1946)
Saddleback Mountain, Mission Viejo, 1923
30x40 inches
Private collection, courtesy of The Irvine Museum
In 1906, Wendt settled in Los Angeles with his wife, sculptor Julia Braken. Already a successful painter, Wendt quickly became a leading member in the art community and was a founding member of the California Art Club in 1909 and helped make it the most influential artists' group in Southern California. He moved his home and studio to Laguna Beach in 1912. He was a founding member of the Laguna Beach Art Association.
Wendt loved to paint green meadows and valleys, ringed by oaks and sycamores. His deep respect and love for nature is reflected in his paintings.

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