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Paradise Found: Summer in California

Paradise Found: Summer in California features a selection of paintings by California Impressionists that show various familiar views of California as they appeared nearly a century ago, before the great population growth of the late twentieth century.

Starting in the early 1900s, Southern California became a popular destination for impressionist and plein air painters. A French expression, which means “in the open air,” plein air is particularly used to describe the act of painting outdoors. The mild climate in California allowed for numerous opportunities to paint outdoors, and a rich variety of subject matter, ranging from expansive beaches, to snow-capped mountains, to desert, and to rolling hills, was within one day’s travel.

Dedicated to the preservation and display of California art of the Impressionist Period (1890-1930), The Irvine Museum plays 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.


Painted in 1907 as an advertisement for the Southern Pacific Railway, Mid-Winter, Coronado Beach by Louis Betts (1873-1961), shows a group of people frolicking at the beach in the middle of winter. Even then, tourism was important to California’s economy.

Maurice Braun (1877-1941) spent the summer of 1917 painting in Yosemite Park. His Yosemite Falls from the Valley captures one of California’s most spectacular sights.

John Frost (1890-1937) suffered from tuberculosis all his life. As such, he often stayed at sanitariums in the warm, dry air of the desert. Mount San Jacinto, which abuts Palm Springs, was a favorite painting subject.

Guy Rose (1867-1925) was a native to Southern California. While much of his work was painted in France, Lifting Fog shows the coast at Laguna Beach on a typically overcast morning in summer.

Wash Day, Sunset Beach, by Sam Hyde Harris (1889-1977), captures the quaint life along numerous coastal communities in the early 1930s. Although Harris worked in downtown Los Angeles, he would take the Pacific Electric Red Line trolley from Sunset Beach and get to work in about thirty minutes.

Anna Hills (1882-1930) was one of California’s most important artists and teachers. She was one of the founders of the Laguna Beach Art Association, and served as its president on two occasions. Summer in the Canyon displays her facile and quick paint technique, a skill much needed for plein air painting.

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