The Irvine Museum celebrates its twentieth anniversary with Lasting Impressions: Twenty Years of The Irvine Museum, on display January 26 through June 6, 2013. The exhibition features many of the museum’s most popular and important California Impressionist paintings, including works by Franz A. Bischoff (1864-1929), George Brandriff (1890-1936), Alson S. Clark (1876-1949), Frank Cuprien (1871-1946), Paul de Longpré (1855-1911), William A. Griffith (1866-1940), Joseph Kleitsch (1882-1931), Granville Redmond (1871-1935), Guy Rose (1867-1925), Donna Schuster (1883-1953), William Wendt (1865-1946), and many others.
Founded by Joan Irvine Smith, Athalie Richardson Irvine Clarke, and James Irvine Swinden (the museum’s current president), and with California Impressionism expert Jean Stern at the helm as Executive Director, The Irvine Museum opened its doors on January 15, 1993. Since its opening, The Irvine Museum has been dedicated to the preservation and display of California art of the Impressionist period (1890-1930), and has played a principal role in the education and furtherance of this important regional variant of American Impressionism that has come to be associated with California and its landscape.
In the past twenty years, the museum has organized sixty-five exhibitions, seventeen of which have toured throughout the United States. The exhibition Masters of Light toured overseas from 2002 to 2004 in Paris, Krakow, and Madrid. Additionally, the museum has published seventeen books that document the California Impressionist style including California Impressionists (1996), California: The Golden Land of Promise (2001), and California Lights: A Century of Landscape (2011), as well as publications featuring California Impressionist painters as in Guy Rose: American Impressionist (1995), In Nature’s Temple: The Art and Life of William Wendt (2008), and Franz A. Bischoff: The Life and Art of an American Master (2011), among others. More than 3,000 sets of the museum’s publications have been gifted by the museum to libraries in public schools, private schools, and colleges, as well as local, county, and state public libraries, free of charge.
In conjunction with Lasting Impressions, the museum will display eight works of art created by local children and curated by Curator of Education Dora James. In the past twenty years, several thousand Orange County students have participated in field trips to The Irvine Museum, and many teachers have sent the museum drawings of the children’s favorite paintings inspired by the museum’s collection.
Paul de Longpre (1855-1911)
Paul de Longpre gained wide popularity in France as a flower painter before coming to the United States and settling in New York City around 1890. The lure of California’s year round sunshine and blossoms brought de Longpre to Los Angeles in 1898. He held a large exhibition of his flower paintings and was met with immediate success. Two years later he built an extravagant Moorish style mansion surrounded by a three-acre garden boasting more than 3,000 rose bushes. This site became the first tourist attraction in Hollywood, with 25,000 visitors each year. Fascinated by the abundance of insects and wildlife, de Longpre frequently included garden inhabitants in his paintings. He was called “Le Roi de Fleurs” (The King of Flowers) and won many awards during his lifetime
Percy Gray (1869-1952)
Percy Gray was born in San Francisco to a family with a rich artistic and literary heritage. Both of his paternal grandparents were professional painters in nineteenth-century England with various other relatives also pursuing careers in art. During a childhood illness, Percy Gray was given sketching materials to use as a pastime and quickly discovered that he had a talent for art. At sixteen, he was enrolled in the California School of Design. He began his career as a sketch artist for the San Francisco Call newspaper. In 1895, he went to New York and worked for eleven years as the head of the art department for William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal, while furthering his art studies at night. Gray returned to San Francisco in 1906 and joined the art department of the Examiner, where he remained until almost 1920. By that time he was able to establish himself as a professional landscape painter.
Paul Grimm (1891-1974)
Born of German parents in South Africa, Paul Grimm came to the U.S. at age 7. When he was eighteen, he won a scholarship to study at the Dusseldorf Royal Academy in Germany. In 1919, he moved to Hollywood, where he painted backdrops for movie studios. Thirteen years later, he decided to move to Palm Springs. Grimm spent much of his summertime painting in the High Sierra, but he is best known for his scenes of the changing moods of the Southern California desert. His studio/gallery on Palm Canyon Road was visited often by President Eisenhower where the two shared confidences. The President wrote “I profited from the experience of seeing how a real artist creates the effects he wants.”
Anna Hills (1882-1930)
Anna Hills received her artistic training at the Art Institute of Chicago and Cooper Union Art School in New York. She taught art at local public schools and eventually continued her education at the Academie Julian in Paris and spent four years traveling in Europe. Upon returning to the U.S. in 1912, she moved to California and soon settled in Laguna Beach. Anna Hills co-founded and served as president of the Laguna Beach Art Association for six years and helped raise funds to establish the present art museum. A highly respected teacher, Hills promoted the visual arts through lectures and the organization of special exhibits which circulated among Orange County public schools. While her early works generally lacked strong color use; that quickly changed upon her arrival in Laguna Beach when her palette brightened dramatically. With a style that included palette knife and quick brush strokes, she became a plein- air landscapist, painting in both oil and watercolor.
Frank Myers (1899-1956)
Myers studied at the Cincinnati Art Academy in 1917, followed by training at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and in France at the School of Fine Arts at Fontainebleau. He was a member of the faculty at the Cincinnati Art Academy for 23 years. Myers first visited the Monterey Peninsula in 1926, while on summer vacation. In 1940 he decided to move to Pacific Grove, California and was a vital force in the Monterey Peninsula art world for 16 years, teaching and serving on art juries. Myer’s work includes portraits as well as landscapes and urban scenes. His early paintings show a strong sense of realism handled in bold and expressive brush strokes, and at other times, he produced brightly colored works showing his keen interest in French Impressionism. Gradually, he developed a strong sense of abstract design and in the late 1920’s, he produced a number of remarkably advanced paintings in an analytical style bordering on abstraction. In his later years Myer’s interest increasingly turned to painting the ocean.
Granville Redmond (1871-1935)
In 1871, the Redmond family moved to California and in 1879 Granville was enrolled in a boarding school for the deaf at Berkeley. He learned sign language and pantomime, and a new world opened. He found special encouragement from two teachers, both deaf artists, who recognized his natural artistic ability and continued to open doors for Redmond throughout his life. When he graduated in 1890, he studied at the California School of Design and then to Paris at the Academie Julian. By the time Redmond returned to California and established a studio in Los Angeles in 1898, he had developed the skills and absorbed the influences that would give him a distinctive style uniquely his own. He had been reluctant to leave France, but he soon found upon his return that California offered all the natural beauty and atmosphere he would need for a lifetime of painting. Redmond continued throughout his career to move easily between the poppy paintings that brought him financial success and the quieter, tonalist pictures he found more artistically rewarding.
Arthur Rider (1886-1975)
Rider received his early training at the Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago. In his student years he painted for the Chicago Lyric Opera and later traveled to Europe. While living in London, he painted for the London Opera at Covent Garden. He further studied at Academies de la Grande Chaumiere and Colarossi in Paris. For nine summers he painted in Spain where he met Joaquin Sorolla who greatly influenced his work. They painted together on the beaches of Valencia. In 1924 Rider moved to Los Angeles and during the 1930’s maintained a studio-home in Laguna Beach. For over thirty years he was one of the leading scenic artists with MGM and Fox Studios. Rider painted throughout California and Mexico, seeking locales which would remind him of the color and light he had seen in Spain. His paintings are rich in color with intense, brilliant light.
William Wendt (1865-1946)
Essentially self-taught, Wendt attended evening classes at the Art Institute of Chicago for only a brief period. Dissatisfied with figure studies, he preferred painting landscapes and quickly became an active exhibitor in various Chicago art shows. Wendt had made several trips to California, throughout the years. In 1906, Wendt married Julia Bracken, a sculptor from Chicago, and they decided to move to Los Angeles. The two worked harmoniously together, she in the studio and he wandering the hills sketching, then, returning to translate his sketches into finished landscapes. Wendt painted exactly what he saw in nature with warm colors and outstanding effects of light and shadow. His early works reflect the feathery brush strokes and hazy atmosphere of Impressionism. In his later works, after about 1912, he employed a distinctive block-like brushwork giving solidity to his renditions of natural forms.