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California Scene Paintings: 1920s-1970s

Between 1920 and 1970, hundreds of talented artists produced oil and watercolor paintings inspired by scenes of everyday life in California. Today these works are being rediscovered. As they are analyzed from a retrospective viewpoint, their value as highly creative fine art and as a visual record of the social history of California is becoming increasingly evident.

Most of that era’s premier artists participated in this art movement, and several of them received national acclaim for the art that they created. Notables such as Millard Sheets, Phil Dike, Emil Kosa Jr., Milford Zornes and Rex Brandt fit into that category. Sadly, other artists included in this exhibition received little attention from the fine art community during the pre-1970s era, but are now being recognized for their important contributions to the California Scene Paintings movement. Ben Norris, John Bohnenberger, Art Riley and Preston Blair are among them.

The term California Scene Painting is used to define works that include people or evidence of humanity through the inclusion of manmade objects and structures. Automobiles, trains, barns, roadways, fences and coastline piers are among key elements that serve as markers to define works as California Scene Paintings.

The architecture, industrial design and clothing styles seen in these works capture the essence of a time gone by. When select works are exhibited together they provide unique insight into how creative people from that era perceived the world around them. It is my hope that you find these works to be artistically inspiring and intellectually engaging.

~ Guest curator, Gordon T. McClelland

Suggested Books

To see The Irvine Museum Collection’s entire collection of high-quality books, cards and prints, please visit the bookstore.