Part of the larger Regionalist art movement of the 1930s-1960s era, California Scene Painting—a term first used by Los Angeles Times art critic Arthur Millier—describes representational art that captured scenes of everyday life in California. Through the New Deal, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) assisted struggling artists by providing them with wages to create artworks for government buildings and public places intended to uplift the nation's spirits amidst the Great Depression. California Scene Paintings from 1930 to 1960 documents much of this period in California history through works that depict local city and rural scenes, particularly in and around Los Angeles and San Francisco, which were rapidly expanding during that time.
Characterized by a sense of humanity, the works in the exhibition typically include people or representations of man-made creations. The California Scene artists related what they saw around them: people going about their everyday lives, factories, a growing car culture, ranches and agrarian communities. Despite a shifting interest toward abstract and non-objective art during the 1950s, practitioners of California Scene Painting continued to create artworks documenting developments in California history, such as the building of freeways and the formation of California beach culture.
The exhibition features close to 75 artworks, including oil paintings, watercolors, drawings and prints created in the decades when this was California's most celebrated type of art. Some of the works in this exhibition were included in 1930s and 1940s exhibitions of Regionalist, American Scene, and WPA art in major museums across America. Works by key artists are featured in the exhibition, including Phil Dike, Emil Kosa Jr., Phil Paradise, Millard Sheets, Paul Sample, Ben Messick, Rex Brandt, and Dong Kingman. A large format book, titled California Scene Paintings, accompanies the exhibition and visually documents artworks from this period and connects them to California's history.
This exhibition is curated by Gordon McClelland. This exhibition is supported by Mark and Janet Hilbert, Hilbert Properties, Bente and Gerald E. Buck, Simon Chiu, George Stern Fine Arts, and The Historical Collections Council of California Art. Additional support is provided by E. Gene Crain, Whitney Ganz, William A. Karges, Pamela and Glen Knowles, Diane and Van Simmons, Michael and Mandy Johnson, Jeff Olsen, Fred Thompson, Bonhams & Butterfields, John Moran Auctioneers, and Claremont Fine Arts.