Southern California Artists: The Impressionists

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© Courtesy of the Artist and Laguna Art Museum
Southern California Artists: The Impressionists

307 Cliff Drive
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
June 14th, 2009 - November 1st, 2009

orange county
Sun-Sat 11-5; First Thursdays of each month 11-9
ephemera, photography


In 1910, with a population of about 300, Laguna Beach's inhabitants consisted mostly of writers, artists and musicians. A few structures marked the landscape: Joseph Yoch's Laguna Beach Hotel, Nick Isch's general store and post office, and several board-and-batten cottages. Tourists, especially from the warmer inland areas, would come down in the summer for a little relaxation and to escape the heat. Considered quaintand sleepy, it would not be long before the town would witness the same changes occurring throughout small-town America.

Using photographs, paintings, and ephemera, this exhibition chronicles the history of Laguna Beach during its earliest days, from just around the turn of the century, through the 1920s and 1930s, a period of rapid change. Changes are evident in these works as we see automobiles replacing the horse-drawn carriages, dirt roads becoming paved, and electricity poles sprouting up alongside eucalyptus trees. Postcards and letters from residents spread the word of the town to others, and the population surged accompanied by the emergence of dance halls, movie theaters, drug stores, and restaurants.

Among the artists in the exhibition are Frank Cuprien, William Swift Daniell, Anna Hills, Edgar Payne, and William Wendt, all of whom participated in the first exhibition of the artist colony in Laguna Beach. That exhibition took place from July 27 to August 27, 1918, and its success prompted the artists to organize the Laguna Beach Art Association, electing Edgar Payne as the first president. Those early artists painted in a style that is a variant of American Impressionism.

Laguna Art Museum is proud to continue the tradition of these early artists who left their mark on the community for generations to come. The model of their first, one room gallery is on display. The core of today's Laguna Art Museum was built by the Laguna Beach Art Association as their first permanent, "fireproof" gallery in 1929. The large gallery with the skylight on the main level is original to that construction. In the gallery adjacent to this one you can see the exposed original basement floor, which dates from 1934. The floor was scored into squares, and within each square are inscribed names. These are names of the early founders and patrons of the Art Association, who each contributed $1.50 toward the completion of the basement.

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