San Diego Museum of Art

Balboa Park, San Diego, CA



Picturing Paradise: San Diego in the Eye of the Artist, 1875-1940


In conjunction with the exhibition Pacific Arcadia: Images of California, 1600-1915, the San Diego Museum of Art will celebrate the millennium with Picturing Paradise: San Diego in the Eye of the Artist, 1875-1940. A comprehensive look at how Balboa Park and the City of San Diego have been idealized in artworks, the show will run Oct. 30, 1999 through Jan. 9, 2000.

"Picturing Paradise borrows themes from the Pacific Arcadia exhibition -- for instance, how California was promoted and idealized, through art and advertising, to conform to the motives of outsiders and those who had a stake in the state's development -- and applies them to the City of San Diego," said Don Bacigalupi, Ph.D., director of the San Diego Museum of Art.

The exhibition explores the various types of fine art representations of San Diego, Balboa Park, La Jolla and the adjacent back country created during a sixty-five year period from 1875 to 1940, and demonstrates hour artists have taken creative license to promote San Diego to the rest of the world through paintings, prints and photographs, which were produced as both fine art and commercial imagery. (left: Alfred R. Mitchell (1888-1972), La Jolla Cove, n.d., oil on canvas, Gift of the artist, 1965.26; right:Maurice Braun (1877-1941), Southern California Landscape, c. 1925, oil on canvas, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. L. Baldridge, 1959.8)

"The works of art in this exhibition cast a loving eye on San Diego's physical beauty -- its bay, beaches, and one of the nation's most significant city parks, filled with unique architectural forms," said D. Scott Atkinson, SDMA Curator of American Art. "The city was, and continues to be, an intoxicating lure for those seeking to lead lives of leisure. Artists have used this attraction to San Diego to create stunning works of art through the years."

When San Diego was founded in 1769, it was an isolated place, without a railroad to connect the new settlement with the east. Once a rail link was established in 1885, the city experienced a period of boom-and-bust land speculation. This problem was largely alleviated in 1898, when the Navy made San Diego an important base. Although early developers encountered difficulty, San Diego's attractive land and weather continued to draw new settlers.

In 1868, land was set aside for a municipal park, which later became Balboa Park. San Diegans deliberately sought to cultivate a blend of nature and civilization that celebrated the riches of historical tradition and the fecundity of the land. Balboa Park became a symbol of this goal.

A sister exhibition, organized by the San Diego Historical Society and entitled Picturing Paradise: Marketing San Diego, 1875-1940, covers the marketable and unique qualities of San Diego from the era of Alonzo Horton in the late 1860s and 1870s to the beginning of World War II. The exhibition will draw from the SDHS collection artifacts of material culture that demonstrate how San Diego, Balboa Park and the surrounding environs were promoted to visitors and residents alike. Picturing Paradise: Marketing San Diego, 1875-1940, will also run Oct. 30, 1999 through Jan. 9, 2000. For more information on the SDHS exhibition, call Shelley Stefanyszyn at the San Diego Historical Society at (619) 232-6203.


Read more about the San Diego Museum of Art in Resource Library Magazine.

For further biographical information on selected artists cited in this article please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 10/26/10

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