IRVINE, CA.- The Irvine Museum
opened its summer 2013 exhibition Mastering the Medium: Works on Paper. The exhibition features a wide selection of works from the museum's collection including drawings, study paintings, watercolors, works in pastel, and etchings. Most of the works were created in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s by important California artists, including Belle Baranceanu (1902-1988), Arthur Beaumont (1890-1978), Paul Grimm (1892-1974), Emil Kosa Jr. (1903-1968), and Norman St. Clair (1863-1912), among others. Some works were created by artists while they were still in art school, and some of the featured study paintings went on to be fully-realized, well-known oil paintings. In addition, the exhibition features a small group of etchings by Henry Chapman Ford from the 1880s depicting the California Missions.
Works on paper (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 artists; that they are delicate and will not last long; and that they are not important works. 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.
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 most important watercolor painters of the California Scene style, prevalent in the 1930s and 40s. 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.