IMCA announces the retirement of Jean Stern, Senior Curator of California Impressionism

The University of California, Irvine’s Institute and Museum of California Art (IMCA) today announced the retirement of Jean Stern, Senior Curator of California Impressionism at IMCA since 2016, effective June 30, 2020. A leading authority on California Impressionism, he is also Executive Director Emeritus of The Irvine Museum (the collection is now part of IMCA) where he served for over 28 years.

Throughout his career, Stern worked to heighten awareness of the school of California Impressionism through a noteworthy series of exhibitions, books, lectures, articles, and video documentaries. He has presented over 250 lectures, and judged and juried more than 100 local, national, and international art competitions.

Stern said, “It has been an honor to help develop our historic art heritage and to work with the staff and with so many dedicated art collectors. As part of the UCI Institute and Museum of California Art, The Irvine Museum Collection will continue to inspire and educate our community as well as generations to come.”

IMCA Museum Director Kim Kanatani said, “While we understand Jean’s resolve to direct his passion for and extraordinary command of the history of California Impressionism beyond our campus, we are profoundly grateful to him for his countless contributions to UCI and the field. The IMCA community is indebted to him for his foresight in creating widespread appreciation of the California experience expressed through this unique genre. We wish him all the best with this next chapter of his life.”

To celebrate his legacy, IMCA also announced the launch of the Jean Stern Acquisitions Fund to further deepen its holdings of California Impressionist works. As UCI coronavirus protocols permit, IMCA will host a virtual celebration for Stern and the launch of this initiative in July. His collection building acumen and curatorial insights will remain an integral part of IMCA programming through 2021. When UCI health protocols allow the IMCA to reopen, his curated exhibition, Radiant Impressions, will showcase highlights from The Irvine Museum Collection paired with complementary loaned artworks. The exhibition considers ways the selected artists engaged with light, for its optical qualities and through metaphor where ephemeral moments are infused with meaning.

In 2017, Stern received the prestigious Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters from the French Ministry of Culture. He has also been presented with lifetime achievement awards from the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association in 2013, the Plein Air Painters of America in 2014, and by Plein Air Magazine in 2014. He currently serves on the board of the California Art Club, founded in 1909, and is a board adviser to the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association. Prior to joining the UCI community, Stern directed Jean Stern Fine Paintings, his gallery in Encino. 

He received his B.A. from California State University, Northridge, and M.A. in Art History from San Diego State University. His doctoral studies in American Art were conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles.