Mastering the Medium: Works on Paper features a wide selection of drawings, some of which are simply student work done in art school, while others are studies relating to large, final oil paintings. Also, the exhibition encompasses a wonderful selection of finished watercolors and works in pastel, painted in the 1920s-1940s by many important California masters. Finally, the exhibition displays a small group of etchings of the California Missions, produced by Henry Chapman Ford in the 1880s.
Works on paper, that is to say drawings, watercolors and graphic arts, are among the most commonly and copiously produced works of art, and yet are also among the most discounted and overlooked. This is because of several common misconceptions: that works on paper are merely studies or trial pieces; that they are produced by amateur or dilettante artists; that they are delicate and will not last long; and that they are not important works.
In fact, many works on paper are indeed studies and trial pieces but they are nevertheless beautiful and significant works of art, produced by important artists throughout history, and if properly handled, will survive and stay bright and beautiful just as long as oil paintings.
Belle Baranceanu (1902-1988) was a Chicago-born Modernist painter who settled in San Diego and became an important member of the local art community. She was active during the Great Depression, painting murals for several schools and public buildings, notably the La Jolla Post Office, which still displays her work. She is represented by an elegant Art Deco drawing of her sister Sarah, and a cubist rendition in pastel of a reclining woman.
Arthur Beaumont (1890-1978) was the Official Artist of the United States Navy. He painted powerful scenes of the Navy's capital ships for over forty years. In addition, he witnessed and recorded the series of atomic bomb tests on Bikini Atoll, as well as the Navy's expeditions to the North and South Poles. His painting of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Midway was completed in 1945, just at the end of World War II.
Paul Grimm (1892-1974) is best known for his views of the desert in Palm Springs. However, he was a superb portrait painter, as evidenced by five remarkable charcoal drawings executed while he was an art student in Düsseldorf in 1912.
Emil Kosa Jr., (1903-1968) is one of the important watercolor painters of the California Scene style, prevalent in the 1930s and 1940s. Active during the Great Depression, this group of California Regionalist painters concentrated on the urban environment, showing how ordinary people coped with the difficult economic circumstances of the time. His BUNKER HILL, shows a once-elegant Victorian mansion, now abandoned and about to be torn down to make room for redevelopment in Los Angeles in the mid-1950s.
Norman St. Clair (1863-1912) is credited as being the first professional artist to paint in Laguna Beach, in the early 1880s. Trained in the English watercolor style, characterized by tight brushstroke and close attention to detail, his view of the beach at Laguna recalls a time when very few people had ever walked along that beautiful coastline.