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Peaceful Awakening: Spring in California

January 20 - May 12, 2007


In the late 1800s, large numbers of artists were coming to California to paint the beautiful landscape. At that time, long before the large population boom of the late 1940s, California was still an unspoiled land. The Irvine Museum's exhibition, "Peaceful Awakening: Spring in California", adorns the walls of the galleries with gentle rolling hills, secluded meadows and valleys covered with brilliant wildflowers as far as the eye could see.

One of California's best known painters of wildflower vistas lived in Santa Barbara. John Gamble (1863-1957) was living in San Francisco when the devastating earthquake and fire of 1906 destroyed his house, studio and all his possessions. As many people did, Gamble left San Francisco and headed for Los Angeles. He stopped in Santa Barbara and decided to settle there. An avid painter of wildflowers, he became known for his glorious, color-filled scenes of poppies, lupines, wild lilacs, owl clover, and other blossoms.

Other artists represented included Paul Grimm (1892-1974), the most renowned of the California desert painters; Anna Hills (1882-1930), as one of the founders of the Laguna Beach Art Association, played a key role in charting the course of the California plein-air style. Edgar Payne (1883-1947) has been illustrated in numerous books and articles on California Plein-Air painting.


Brief Biographies

Franz Bischoff (1864-1929)
Canna Lilies
Oil on board
26x19 inches
Private Collection, Courtesy of The Irvine Museum
Franz Bischoff became one of the foremost porcelain painters of his day. He founded the Bischoff School of Ceramic Art in Detroit and New York City. His conversion to easel painting occurred at about the same time he moved to California, in 1906. In 1908 Bischoff built a studio-home along the Arroyo Seco in South Pasadena, complete with a gallery, ceramic workshop, and painting studio. Upon his arrival in Southern California, he turned to landscape painting and became one of the leading figures of the plein-air style.
Paul de Longpre (1855-1911)
Papa Gontier Roses, 1904
Watercolor on paper
19 _ x13 _ inches
Courtesy of The Irvine Museum
The lure of California's year round sunshine and blossoms brought Paul de Longpre to Los Angeles in 1898. He held a large exhibition of his flower paintings and met with immediate success. In 1900, de Longpre bought a sizable parcel at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Cahuenga Avenue. He built a large, Moorish-style mansion, which was surrounded by three acres of garden. At its peak, the garden boasted eight hundred varieties of roses. His mansion and garden became the first tourist attraction in Hollywood.
William Griffith (1866-1940)
Ranch House with Field
Oil on canvas
25x30 inches
Private Collection, Courtesy of The Irvine Museum
William Griffith taught art twenty years at Kansas University before coming to California in 1920. He spent time one year in California during a sabbatical leave. Having suffered from chronic bronchial problems, Griffith found the warm, semiarid climate appealing. In 1920 he moved permanently to the area, settling in Laguna Beach where he immediately became active with the Laguna Beach Art Association. Griffith was noted for being a portrait artist, but after moving to California he turned his attention to landscapes.
Anna Althea Hills (1882-1930)
Springtime, Banning, California, 1916
Oil on paper/board
10x14 inches
Private Collection, Courtesy of The Irvine Museum
Anna Hills moved to Los Angeles around 1912. A year later she relocated to Laguna Beach were she became a founding member of the Laguna Beach Art Association, of which she was president from 1922 to 1925 and again from 1927-1930. A highly respected teacher, Hills promoted the visual arts through lectures and the organization of special exhibits, which circulated among Orange County public schools.
Vernon Jay Morse (1898-1965)
Landscape, 1948
Oil on canvas/board
18 _ x29 _ inches
Courtesy of The Irvine Museum
Vernon Jay Morse was a student at the California School of Fine Arts while living in San Francisco in 1919-25. He spent a lot of time in the Pasadena area from the late 1920's and by the late 1930's was living in Sierra Madre, California. Images caught in forgotten woodcuts by Morse were found in the 1930's amidst the rubble of old Chinatown.
Jack Wilkinson Smith (1873-1949)
Tide Pools, Crystal Cove
Oil on canvas
20x24 inches
Private Collection, Courtesy of The Irvine Museum
In 1906 Smith visited California, which he called "nature's own paradise of scenic splendor and variety." He painted in Los Angeles, then traveled north to Oregon. Returning to Southern California, he established a studio-home in Alhambra, in an area known as "Artists' Alley." The coastal areas and the sea in its many moods, was a favorite subject for Smith. His paintings of surf crashing among the rocks are unparalleled.

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