Distinguished Artist Series
by Bradley J. Delaney
The term "California plein air painting' is currently used to cover the variety of styles and influences found in early twentieth-century Los Angeles painting, principally American Barbizon, Tonalism, impressionism, and post-Impressionism. This term would appear appropriate to describe Coburn's landscape paintings and those which are fundamentally landscape, provided that the dominant element (or elements) in each work is specified. However, whereas Coburn identified himself as a landscape painter on his business card, he clearly did so because of the far greater demand for landscape in relation to other categories of painting. In reality, his interest went beyond landscape to other subjects seldom shown locally, such as still life, nudes, urban scenes and ones of seaport industry and commerce, subjects reflecting the ethnic diversity of the region, and of course the daring Entertainer. He was particularly celebrated in his day for evening and night scenes of downtown Los Angeles, sometimes in rainy weather, sometimes illuminated by electric or even neon lights.
Above Left: Sunpath with Shade, c. 1910-15, oil on cardbaord, 10 x 7 inches
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