FAQ: The Irvine Museum Collection


UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman (left) and James Irvine Swinden. Steve Zylius / UCI

UC Irvine recently received its most generous gift of art to date—an entire museum collection. The Irvine Museum, founded in 1993 by the philanthropist and arts patron Joan Irvine Smith, houses an extraordinary display of California regional art. Paintings focus on the natural landscape, and many show a still-undeveloped Orange County.

The collection will eventually find a home on the UCI campus, where a major center is envisioned that focuses on the study and education of California art.


The new title will be the Irvine Museum Collection at the University of California, Irvine.

The Irvine Museum Collection is dedicated to the collection, display, and study of California Impressionism, a regional variety of the larger Impressionist movement that flourished between 1890 and 1930.

It houses works of art from extraordinary painters like Joseph Kleitsch, William Wendt, Jessie Botke, Guy Rose, Granville Redmond, and Donna Schuster. While many of these artists were prominent cosmopolitan figures in the art world, trained in Europe or New York, they came to California to live and paint, attracted by the state’s beautiful scenic views and extraordinary light effects.

For a long time, this regional art, with its celebration of California’s unique landscapes and diverse natural world, was overlooked. Through the efforts of the Irvine Museum Collection, the significance and artistic merit of California Impressionism has become much more widely recognized.

For the time being, the museum will remain at its current location, a rented space at the Airport Tower, 8881 Von Karman Avenue, suite 100. It is open to the public from Tuesday through Saturday, 11am-5pm. Admission is free.

We are delighted that the original museum staff will stay on to curate and care for the Irvine Museum Collection. This includes the Museum’s long-term director Jean Stern, one of the world’s foremost experts on California Impressionist art and a recent recipient of the prestigious Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters award.

The University’s ultimate goal is to move the entire collection to a permanent, state-of-the-art facility on the UC Irvine campus. The Museum will continue to be open to the public, and its new location will help focus the University’s tremendous academic and scholarly resources on the collection. The goal is to make the Irvine Museum Collection at the University of California, Irvine a major center for regional art.

The collection will be a meeting place for presentations, colloquia, and conferences on regional art and environmental topics. Through additional funding, UCI hopes to invite visiting scholars and artists to study the collection firsthand, further promoting California Impressionism to a larger audience and eventually creating a well-known, influential research and education center for California art.

The Irvine Museum Collection houses about 1,200 paintings; its current space allows it to display about 50 at a time in rotating exhibitions. Exhibitions have included Dusk till Dawn, which focused on striking nightscapes, sunsets, and breaking days, and The Nature of Water: Our Most Precious Resource, which showcased the atmospheric cycle of water in art, increasing awareness of California’s complex relationship with this natural resource.

As well as free admission for the public, the Irvine Museum Collection will continue to provide tours to elementary-school students, and offer free talks that employ the collection as an educational tool for arts education, natural science, and conservation awareness.

Stay up to date on Museum happenings through the Facebook page and by signing up for the email list serve. Feel free to contact irvinemuseumcollection@uci.edu.

To support the Irvine Museum’s extraordinary collection, education, and outreach, please consider becoming a Patron