Heather James Fine Art presents in its gallery in Palm Desert, California an exhibition examining the diverse art and artists of California from the first fifty years of the 20th century. Since its inception, California has captured the hearts and imaginations of artists and has provided fertile ground for inspiration. Whether Californians by birth or by choice, these groups of artists showcase the astounding range of vision and technique from American Regionalism to figural abstraction.
The exhibition focuses mainly on the unique vision that artists brought to California Impressionism. While Impressionism that originally sprang from Paris focused on modern, urban life, the impressionism that took root in California revolved around its tremendous landscape. Although Giverny in France would give rise to a style fascinated by nature, only in California could it take root in such spectacular fashion to form a style filled with light and nature. With its dramatic coastline, its majestic mountains, dense forests, deep canyons, and everything in between, California could provide artists an endless source of inspiration.
Not just aesthetic backdrop, California also provided opportunities for artists to form important relationships through clubs. The California Art Club was founded in 1909 and original members include John Hubbard Rich, William Wendt and Edgar Payne. The CAC became closely associated with California Impressionism but not all members painted in that style including Helena Dunlap who became linked with the burgeoning modernist movement. Dunlap would go on to found the Modern Art Society in Los Angeles along with Meta Gehring Cressey, Henrietta Shore and others.
In nearby Laguna Beach, an art colony formed which coalesced into the Laguna Beach Art Association and counted among its members Edgar Payne and William Wendt. The purpose was “to advance the knowledge of and interest in Art and to create a spirit of cooperation and fellowship between the painter and the public.” Both the LBAA and CAC proved important in guiding artists, building relationships, and promoting their work. These groups proved influential in maintaining representational art even as abstraction began to take hold in other parts of the country. The CAC continues to this day while the LBAA has become the Laguna Art Museum.
Other artists in the exhibition include the impressionists Joseph Kleitsch, George Gardner Symons, George Brandriff, and Alson Clark; portraitists Geneve Rixford Sargeant, Matteo Sandona, and Max Wieczorek; avian painter Jessie Arms Botke; and landscape painters Paul Lauritz, Henry Richter, and John Christopher Smith.