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Independent Visions: Women Artists of California 1880-1940

The Irvine Museum celebrates the work of California’s historic women artists in the new exhibition Independent Visions: Women Artists of California 1880-1940, on display October 3, 2015 through January 21, 2016. The exhibition highlights a wide variety of artistic styles, including the Tonalist style of the late 1800s, the Impressionist period of the early 1900s, and the Regionalist style of the 1930s and 1940s. The works vary from classically-inspired portraits and still-lifes to bold Modernist paintings that document the progressive trends of women painters.

Artists featured in Independent Visions include Mabel Alvarez (1891-1985), Eliza Barchus (1857-1959), Loren Barton (1893-1975), Elizabeth Borglum (1848-1922), Jessie Arms Botke (1883-1971), Alice Chittenden (1859-1944), Elanor Colburn (1866-1939), Meta Cressey (1882-1964), Euphemia Charlton Fortune (1885-1969), Anna Hills (1882-1945), Mary Hobart (1873-1946), Grace Carpenter Hudson (1865-1937), Reva Jackman (1892-1966), Evelyn McCormick (1862-1948), Louise Nimmo (1899-1959), Julie Morrow (1882-1979), Elsie Palmer Payne (1884-1971), Mary Curtis Richardson (1848-1941), Ruth Peabody (1893-1966), Donna Schuster (1883-1953), Henrietta Shore (1880-1963), Luvena Vysekal (1873-1954), Marion Wachtel (1876-1954), Julia Bracken Wendt (1870-1942), Blanche Whelan (1889-1974), and Edith White (1855-1946).

Far from being limited to a dilettante role, women artists in California were important figures in early California art during the late nineteenth and early part of the twentieth century.  They excelled in landscape painting, as well as portrait, figural, and still-life. Moreover, they set the standard in such diverse media as oil painting, watercolor, and sculpture. Not all early California painters were working in the Academic or Impressionist manner.  Starting in about 1914, a group of progressive artists, many of whom were women, began to show works of strong Modernist styles. Their use of vivid color and bold form is in stark contrast to the realistic appearance of the plein air paintings usually associated with this period.

The central attraction in Independent Visions is a 7 feet by 26 feet mural by Jessie Arms Botke (1883-1971), a gift to The Irvine Museum from The Oaks at Ojai, for which the mural was painted in 1953. It represents a scene in the Everglades, full of exotic birds and plants, set in a bright field of gold leaf. Nationally known as one of the important American Art Deco painters, Botke’s works shimmer with color, graceful line and exquisite detail, and are often times covered by large areas of gold leaf as part of the design.

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