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Painting World War II: The California Style Watercolor Artists

April 18 - October 3, 2010


Painting World War II is an historic first examination of paintings by California Style watercolor artists on the subject of WWII. Over 60 paintings depicting scenes of California mobilizing for the war as well as images of the war overseas will be on view. Featured artists include Arthur Beaumont, Rex Brandt, Hardie Gramatky, Dong Kingman, Barse Miller, Phil Paradise, Charles Payzant, Ed Reep, Millard Sheets, and Milford Zornes. The exhibition is on view April 18 through October 3, 2010.

Forged in the Great Depression, California Style watercolors form an important West Coast chapter of American Scene and American Regionalist art. As a group these artists examine a broad survey of everyday life in California and create memorable artistic accounts of the unfolding local history of California from 1930 through the 1970's. Each painting in the exhibition tells an intimate and dramatic story offering viewers an opportunity to experience WWII from the artist's perspective. Many aspects of WWII are examined in this exhibition. War efforts on the home front by private citizens and the Red Cross are profiled. Regionalist images of the military presence in California gearing up for the Pacific Theatre will be on view, as well as paintings of soldiers on leave, soldiers guarding military installations and the delivery of tanks on trains.

Featured in the exhibition is a watercolor by Ed Reep, combat artist, painted on site in the battlefields of Anzio as the war raged around him. Paintings by war correspondent artists such as Millard Sheets, Bare Miller and Milford Zornes who traveled with soldiers overseas to record their deployment in China, India and New Guinea capture the reality of war. Standish Backus takes us along with the 4th Division of the Marines as they make the first wave assault on Japan from the sea. There will also be paintings by Bikini Atoll that depict rare scenes of the Able and Baker nuclear tests and their devastating results. Viewers may also recognize a number of paintings by Arthur Beaumont that were reproduced in National Geographic in the early 1940's.


Curator's statement

Painting World War II: The California Style Watercolor Artists is an historic first examination of the paintings by California Style artists on the subject of WWII. Each painting tells an intimate and in turn, dramatic story offering a fresh perspective on World War II. This perspective is a mix of two things: first, a passion for using watercolor in spontaneous and expressive new ways, and second, with the influence of WWII, a rich sense of old fashioned "We are all in this together" patriotism.

Forged in the Great Depression, California Style watercolors form an important West Coast chapter of American Regionalist art. In selecting Regionalism, California artists demonstrated little interest in the dominant European intellectual art of the day and chose instead to create a realist form of art focusing its values on ordinary American people, involved in day to day work and pleasures, on farms, in towns and cities of California. Examining a broad survey of everyday life, these artists created a visual record of the unfolding local history of California beginning in the mid 1920s and extending into the 1970s. California Style watercolors form the largest body of paintings in this Regionalist vein.

The California Style artists had been practicing regionalism for over ten years when WWII started. The quality of the paintings from this first phase had reached a kind of peak in excellence and refinement of style. When WWII happened, these artists were prepared and ready to record those changes as new subject matter. As the California Style artists became deeply involved with WWII, they painted military subjects in the ways they had been doing all along. In a sense, the military paintings in this show are still regionalist paintings examining ordinary Americans, only now thrown into war.

My primary goal with this show was to give a gift to the WWII veterans who are still with us. To thank them one more time for their service and sacrifice, and to hopefully remind them that many of us still remember and honor their service.

Numerous individuals and institutions directly contributed to this show. I wish to thank the Oceanside Museum of Art: Skip Pahl, Executive Director, Dr. Teri Sowell, Director of Exhibitions and Danielle Susalla, Assistant Director for their help and guidance. To Geoffrey Beaumont, who generously shared information about his father and his father's art. I also wish to thank Mark and Jan Hilbert, Gordon and Debbie McClelland, Gerald Buck, Jeff Cooper, E. Gene Crain, Michelle and Russ Chapman, Dr. Robert Dreibelbus, Merika Gopaul, Phillip and Marge Greene, Tom Hall, Sandy Hunter, Michael Johnson, Nick Johnson, Pam, Kevin and Christopher Knowles, Marty and Ronnie Lomeli, Beverly Maloof, Sally and David Martin, Lee Matalon, Elizabeth Tallman, Toby Moss, Jeff Olsen, Roger Robinson, Tony Sheets, Ray Sahranavard, Susan Reep and Mark Smith, Joan Irvine Smith, Linda Gramatky Smith, Catherine Beaumont Smith, Jean Stern, Marifrances Trivelli, Mike and Susan Verbal, John, Nancy and Johnathan Weare, The Los Angeles Maritime Museum, The Newport Harbor Nautical Museum, The Irvine Museum, The Hood Museum at Dartmouth, and The Navy Art Collection, Washington, D.C.

- Glen Knowles, Curator


Essay concerning the exhibition

To view an essay by Glen Knowles accompanying Painting World War II: The California Style Watercolor Artists, please click here.


Programming for the exhibition

A preview reception introducing the exhibition was held on April 17 from 5:00-7:00 p.m. OMA's receptions are known for their party atmosphere complete with wine and scrumptious hors d'oeuvres prepared by OMA's own Culinary Arts Council. At the reception there were special performances by the Antelope Valley Jazz Ensemble directed by band leader Lee Matalon and the San Diego Vintage Dance Club in period costumes. The ensemble played swing music reflective of the World War II era.

Guests met the curator of the exhibition Glen Knowles May 20 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. during a Walk and Talk through the exhibition. Knowles is a professor of art at Antelope Valley College in Lancaster. He teaches drawing, painting, and watercolor and is recognized as the inventor of the color wheel palette. Knowles has curated seven exhibitions on the history of California Art and has a great passion for California Style watercolors.

Educational docent tours can be scheduled by calling the museum at 760.435.3720. Docent tours are a great way to learn about and connect with the artwork on view in the museum. Tours are free for all students and must be scheduled two weeks in advance.


Images of paintings in the exhibition


(above: Watson Cross, Loading Planes, watercolor)


(above: Bare Miller, Waving Good Bye and Good Luck, watercolor)


(above: Phil Paradise, Evening on the Home Front, watercolor)

RL editor's note: readers may also enjoy:

and biographical information on artists cited in this article in America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Oceanside Museum of Art in Resource Library.

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