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Drawing on the Past: Works on Paper

Drawing on the Past is a remarkable display of drawings, pastels, watercolors and etchings by California artists dating as far back as the 1880s.

Many of the drawings on display were produced when these artists were art students in Europe in the late nineteenth century. The traditional academic method of art instruction required the student to study drawing for the first two years of their study before getting instruction on using paint and color. These classes would progress from drawing objects to eventually drawing the human figure.

Paul Grimm (1891-1974), best known as the premier painter of the desert near Palm Springs, learned to paint at the Düsseldorf Royal Academy, in Germany.  The wonderful series of charcoal portraits in our exhibition were done while he was an art student there. The models are ordinary people who were hired to pose.

Pastel painters create art using a stick consisting of pure powdered pigment held together by a binder.  Dating back to the Renaissance, pastel paintings show intense colors and a soft surface texture.  Laguna Landscape, by William Griffith (1866-1940), painted in August, 1924, retains the brightness characteristic of the medium.

The exhibition also features works by some of our most prominent watercolor painters, such as Phil Dike (1906-1990) who for many years taught art at Scripps College in Claremont; Arthur E. Beaumont (1890-1978), who is nationally noted for his paintings of U. S. Navy ships; Emil Kosa (1903-1968), who spent a career as a movie artist at MGM and won an Academy Award for his work on the 1963 movie Cleopatra; Arthur G. Rider (1886-1975), a colleague of Kosa at MGM, who often painted in Mexico.

One of the most popular subjects for artists in California was the historic chain of missions established by Spain when California was a small part of the Empire.  Henry Chapman Ford (1828-1894), a veteran of the Civil War, moved to California in 1875, and in his horse and buggy, visited nearly every one of the twenty-one missions, creating a historically important portfolio of watercolors, oils, and etchings. His monumental work added to the revival of interest in the state’s Spanish heritage and spurred the restoration of the Missions.

Suggested Books

To see The Irvine Museum Collection’s entire collection of high-quality books, cards and prints, please visit the bookstore.