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Early California Art

During the formative years of the state of California, landscape painting had not yet become a viable art form. It was not until the 1860s, when 'gold fever' abated, that artists from other parts of the world were attracted to California for the hills themselves, rather than the gold therein. From that time the local landscape became the dominant theme of such new arrivals as William Keith, Thomas Hill, Albert Bierstadt, Virgil McWilliams and others. Due to California's isolation from the rest of the world, artists were free from restrictions of the established art schools of painting on the East Coast and Europe. Our early artists recorded in descriptive realism the dramatic coastline, fertile valleys and majestic peaks of this virgin territory. Since the land itself had not been recorded by generations of previous painters, the landscapes produced by these early artists displayed characteristics which were uniquely Californian. During this period artists painted in a style known as Romantic Realism. This pantheistic approach to painting was rooted in a reverence for nature. Infused with light and air, these works portrayed the beauty of the area.

San Francisco became the center of cultural development and the art exhibitions held there provided artists and art dealers an opportunity to exhibit their artwork. The founding of the all-male Bohemian Club in 1872 further solidified San Francisco's art colony. But by the late 1890s a creeping modernism had begun to change the taste of the buying public. It was a transitional period and our local artists were returning from their studies in France with new approaches. They were greatly influenced by the color harmonies of the Barbizon painters and Tonalists, and more importantly, the Impressionists which produced a freer, more colorful style ... California Impressionism. Emphasis was on mood, color harmony and aesthetic concerns, a artists quickly painted in 'plein air' with spontaneous brush strokes.

6th and Dolores
P.O. Box 4131
Carmel, California 93921
Tel: (831) 624-1155    Fax:(831) 624-2459
E-mail: portnoyart@aol.com
Josephine Bayley - "San Juan Capistrano"
John Gamble - "The Button Sage"
George Bickerstaff - "Cypress Point"