Editor's note: The National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts provided source material to Resource Library Magazine for the following article or essay. If you have questions or comments regarding the source material, please contact the The National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts directly through either this phone number or web address:


Bold Strokes: California Watercolors

February 6 - April 18, 2004


Bold Strokes: California Watercolors showcases fifteen paintings from the California Watercolor Movement, also known as California Scene Painting. This exhibition is drawn from the Museum's superb, but little known watercolor collection, and highlights those artists who embraced and depicted the regional uniqueness of agriculture, industrialization, and recreation within the California landscape from the 1930's to the 1970's. Included are works by Millard Sheets, Frederic Whitaker, Dong Kingman, and Mario Cooper, with many of the watercolors being exhibited for the first time. (right: Frederic Whitaker (1891-1988), Market Day, 1948, watercolor, 22 1/16 x 30 inches, 35-W)

The California watercolor movement was born in the burgeoning Los Angeles metropolis of the 1920s. Regional organizations such as the California Watercolor Society provided a forum for artists to exhibit, and circulated these artists' work nationwide. During the Great Depression, the movement gained strength as artists were attracted to the portability, affordability, and immediacy of the medium. Following the interest in depiction of regional areas of the country by such notable artists as Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton, California watercolorists turned to depicting scenes specific to their area. The movement expanded rapidly and came to include artists from both Northern and Southern California.

The beautiful California landscape was a natural subject for these artists, and they often used it as a backdrop for scenes of agriculture and labor, as in Millard Sheets' Winter in Temecula, and Frederic Whitaker's Market Day. The rapidly increasing industrialization was captured in a positive spirit by many of the artists as seen in Dong Kingman's Dead End, and Mario Cooper's Dredges. During the 1930's, Los Angeles experienced dramatic growth and, under the instruction of Rex Brandt, Phil Dike, Millard Sheets and others, the watercolorists blossomed into a pervasive movement. While landscape painters had been working in watercolor since the nineteenth century in California, the California Scene Painters distinguished themselves from their predecessors by their large format, vibrant colors, bold design, and vigorous brushwork. (left: Rex Brandt (1914-2000), Self Portrait)

The popularity of the movement continued through the 1940s and into the post-War era, when many watercolorists turned to scenes of leisure and recreation. While interest in watercolors remained strong in the 1960s, by the following decade the California Watercolor Society, renamed the National Watercolor Society, lost its regional character.

Bold Strokes (February 6 - April 18, 2004) offers landscapes, industrial scenes, and portraits by the most celebrated and influential artists of the movement, who ultimately attained the honor of election to the National Academy.

Editor's note: RLM readers may also enjoy these essays:

Also see the California Art Club and Top California Artists articles from AskArt.com.

Please Note: TFAOI and RLM do not endorse sites behind external links.

Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the National Academy Museum in Resource Library Magazine

Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

This page was originally published in 2004 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

Copyright 2012 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.