On view in the museum’s Upstairs Gallery is a selection of works from the Laguna Art Museum collection representing artists who worked in California in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Both northern and southern California artists are represented and include: Mischa Askenazy, Franz Bischoff, Carl Oscar Borg, Maurice Braun, Benjamin C. Brown, Frank Cuprien, William Swift Daniell, Edwin Deakin, Anna Hills, Thomas Hunt, Martin Jackson, Edgar Payne, Hanson Puthuff, Julian Rix, F. Carl Schmidt, Jack Wilkinson Smith, Gardner Symons, and William Wendt. Their varied styles are a reflection of their widely diverse backgrounds. That diversity is a direct result of the surge of immigration that occurred after the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869. As artists ventured west—first to San Francisco and then to Los Angeles—they began creating paintings that were shipped east, to Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York City. Paintings showing the grandeur of the western landscape drew attention from critics and dealers, which further encouraged artists to travel west. Some remained permanently, others only for a few months or years, and some maintained studios on both coasts.
Art colonies were established in Carmel, Santa Barbara, Laguna Beach, and San Diego. Laguna Beach gained fame through the work of artists such as Frank Cuprien, Anna Hills, Thomas Hunt, Edgar Payne, Gardner Symons, and William Wendt. The art colony in Laguna Beach became one of the most active, enjoying a national reputation by the early 1920s. The Laguna Beach Art Association, founded in 1918, played an important role in shaping the community. Their gallery on Cliff Drive, which opened in February 1929, forms the core of today’s Laguna Art Museum.