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California Scene Paintings from 1930 to 1960

March 10 - July 28, 2013


The Pasadena Museum of California Art (PMCA) is presenting California Scene Paintings from 1930 to 1960, on view at museum from March 10 through July 28, 2013. Part of the larger Regionalist art movement of the 1930s-1960s era, California Scene Painting-a term first used by Los Angeles Times art critic Arthur Millier-describes representational art that captured scenes of everyday life in California. Through the New Deal Relief programs, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) assisted struggling artists by providing them with wages to create artworks for government buildings and public places intended to uplift the nation's spirits amidst the Great Depression. California Scene Paintings from 1930 to 1960 documents much of this period in California history through works that depict local city and rural scenes, particularly in and around Los Angeles and San Francisco, which were rapidly expanding during that time. (right: Barse Miller, Lincoln Park, 1935, Watercolor on paper, 15 x 22 inches. The Michael and Mandy Johnson Collection)

Characterized by a sense of humanity, the works in the exhibition typically include people or representations of man made creations. The California Scene artists related what they saw around them: people going about their everyday lives, factories, a growing car culture, ranches, and agrarian communities. Despite a shifting interest toward abstract and non-objective art during the 1950s, practitioners of California Scene Painting continued to create artworks documenting developments in California history, such as the building of freeways and the formation of California Beach Culture.

Curated by Gordon McClleland, California Scene Paintings from 1930 to 1960 features close to 75 artworks, including oil paintings, watercolors, drawings, and prints created in the decades when this was California's most celebrated type of art. Some of the works in this exhibition were included in 1930s and 1940s exhibitions of Regionalist, American Scene, and WPA art in major museums across America. Works by key artists are featured in the exhibition, including Phil Dike, Emil Kosa Jr., Phil Paradise, Millard Sheets, Paul Sample, Ben Messick, Rex Brandt, and Dong Kingman. A large format book, titled California Scene Paintings, accompanies the exhibition and visually documents artworks from this period and connects them to California's history.


(above: Phil Dike, Holiday, 1931, Oil on canvas, 30 x 36 inches. Mike and Susan Verbal Collection)


Related event

Visiting scholars
Sunday, May 12, 2013 at 3 pm
Archivist and writer Morgan Yates examines the exhibition through one of its principal showcases, The Auto Club of Southern California's member magazine, Westways.

(above: Emil Kosa Jr., San Francisco, 1942, Oil on canvas, 30 x 40 inches. Mark and Jan Hilbert Collection)


Additional images

To view additional images of artworks from the exhibition please click here

To view the checklist from the exhibition please click here.

Editor's note: RL readers may also enjoy:

For biographical information about artists mentioned in this article please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

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