selected watercolors from the mark and janet hilbert ... · selected watercolors from the mark and...
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March 31—August 10, 2015
Chapman University, Leatherby Libraries
Selected watercolors from the
Mark and Janet Hilbert Collection of California Art
at Chapman University
Phil Dike, “Afternoon at Divers Cove.”
Changing California Selected watercolors from the
Mark and Janet Hilbert Collection of California Art at Chapman University
March 31—August 10, 2015 Chapman University, Leatherby Libraries
What is California Scene Painting?
California Scene painting (c. 1920s - present) flowed from the California Impressionism movement that flourished in the early years of the 20th century, but it differs from that style in some significant ways. First—in contrast to the Impressionists, who painted scenes of the unpopulated California coastline, mountains and wilderness—the California Scene painters always included evidence of humanity in their works. Their art includes or focuses on people or manmade objects: buildings, wharfs, boats, cars, ranches, factories, even portraits. Second, many of the artists in the California Scene movement were also working for the movie studios in Los Angeles— especially Walt Disney's—painting studio backdrops and doing work on animated films, especially from the 1930s through the 1970s. Their fine art often reflects the kinetic,
About This Exhibition By Mary Platt, curator
George James, “Quality Cars.”
imaginative style of those studio works. Also, the California Scene movement was part of both the larger American Scene (Regionalism) art movement and the Social Realism move-ment—important cultural currents in the early to mid-20th century that attempted to define a uniquely "American" style of art.
Portraying a State’s Growth and Change
This exhibition of about a dozen paintings from the Hilbert Collection will trace how California Scene painters portrayed the cultural and historical shifts that occurred in California during roughly the period from 1930 through the 1970s. The earliest painting in the exhibition is a farm scene from the '30s, when much of the state's economy was agrarian. The most recent painting, from 1980, shows a family in a beachside hotel, with leisure activities (sailing, fishing, strolling on the beach) hap-pening in the background. The entire sweep of paintings will show the state's development from farming to car and surfing culture to the entertainment/leisure juggernaut it is today.
A New Museum for Chapman
This exhibition marks the first time the public can see a selec-tion of the paintings that will be part of the new Hilbert Museum of California Art that will open at Chapman this November. It's an exciting prospect for Chapman University to be the new home of this brilliant collection that has been so lovingly and carefully assembled by Mark and Janet Hilbert. Collectors like the Hilberts are the lifeblood of the art world—their vision, passion and connoisseurship often run far in advance of what's currently prominent and lionized by art media or the art estab-lishment. The best collectors are those who don't collect for the invest-ment value, but simply because they love what they collect—and even better is when they decide they want to share their collec-tion with the world. That's what the Hilberts decided to do last year, and in searching for the right place to donate their treas-ured paintings and establish a museum for them, they found Chapman. As Mark Hilbert told me, "This museum belongs in Orange County, at Chapman University, in a historic building right in the heart of Old Towne. This is where history, culture and imagery coincide, and it makes perfect sense to have it here."
About Mark and Janet Hilbert
New York City-born Mark Hilbert arrived with his family in Pasadena at the age of three months, and has been a proud Californian ever since. He graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1966 with a degree in engi-neering, and immediately went to work for the Trane Company as an air conditioning engineer, a job he worked at for two decades. Over the course of that time, he began buying residential properties in Southern California. In 1985 he invented the “Chiller Optimizer,” a new product that reduced the energy consumption of air conditioning units. He sold the product in 1987 and began to devote his full time to managing his resi-dential properties. In 1988, he founded Hilbert Property Management, a Newport Beach-based company in which he still serves as managing partner.
Mark married his wife Janet in 1994. Jan received her master’s degree and teaching credential from the University of Southern California, and served as professor of business at Santa Ana College for 35 years. Mark and Jan, who have three children and six grandchildren, reside in Newport Beach.
The couple began to collect California Scene paintings in 1992, when they bought a house together in Palm Springs and wanted to decorate it with original art. “I found our first California Scene painting at a con-signment shop in Palm Springs that had a complete assortment of Cali-fornia watercolors,” Mark says. “It was love at first sight. After buying that first one, we developed an appreciation for the style. Since then, we’ve educated ourselves and continued to collect, and have now moved into collecting oil paintings and lithographs as well as watercolors.”
“Building the museum here at Chapman is the perfect union of syner-gies,” Mark continues. “The ties with Chapman’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts and the art and history departments will be very important. The setting here in the historic City of Orange, with its historic Old Towne district right in the heart of Southern California – all this combines to make Chapman the perfect home for our collection and the new Hilbert Museum of California Art.”
Paintings in This Exhibition
Milford Zornes Watercolor on paper. 1930 The Hilbert Collection
California in the 1930s was still primarily rural and agricultural. The state’s golden promise and fertile, unblemished farmland lured thousands of Dust Bowl refugees, even though California, too, was hit hard by the Great Depression. Though not one of the desperate “Okies,” Milford Zornes (1908-2008) was also born in Oklahoma. His family moved to California while he was in high school. He studied with Millard Sheets while attending Pomona College, mas-tering the medium of watercolor and becoming one of the leading lights of the California Scene movement. Here he portrays a pastoral scene in which the monumental nature of the haystack recalls Monet’s luminous haystacks of about 45 years earlier.
2. Farm Workers, San Joaquin Valley
Millard Sheets Watercolor on paper. 1939 The Hilbert Collection
Millard Sheets (1907-1989) was the leading figure and driving force behind the California Scene movement, recognized nationally as an American Regionalist painter of renown. A California native, he attended Chouinard Art Institute (now CalArts) and was hired to be a teacher there before he even graduated. In addition to creating hundreds of works in watercolor and oil, and his distinguished teaching career, he also created well-known mosaics for Home Savings banks throughout California, as well as works for the Detroit Public Library, Mayo Clinic, Notre Dame University (the famous “Touchdown Jesus” mosaic) and many others. Here he portrays impoverished migrant farm workers at their backbreaking labor in the San Joaquin Valley—evidence of the strong thread of Social Re-alism that ran through many of his early works.
recalls the coming of the freeways – and with them, the burgeon-ing of “car culture” -- to California. By 1949, when this work was created, California already boasted an impressive number of highways, totaling 1,938 miles, including I-5, I-8, I-10, I-15, US 40, I-80, I-505, and I-580. Bypasses (“beltline and circumrefer-ential routes”), such as today’s I-710, I-280, and I-880, were add-ed in 1955, bringing California’s total interstate miles to 2,135. On June 24, 1957, I-80 became the first California freeway opened under the Federal Highway Act of 1956.
6. Street Scene
John Bohnenberger Watercolor on paper. 1960s The Hilbert Collection
By the early 1960s, street scenes like this one (probably in L.A.) were already becoming “picturesque” and “quaint” – fodder for artists like John Bohnenberger (1926-2012) – as California cities continued to grow and urbanize. Bohnenberger was a self-taught artist who worked as a government employee for many years. His paintings of everyday life – many of them painted on location along the California docks, in suburban neighborhoods and in industrial areas – are acclaimed for their luminosity and use of color.
7. Quality Cars
George James Watercolor on paper. 1960s The Hilbert Collection
A viable argument can be made that American automobile cul-ture, as a way of life, really began in California, not Detroit. Wheels made it easy for Californians to explore the beauties of their state, and the highway/freeway system made it more con-venient. The first motel (“motor hotel”) in America sprang up in San Luis Obispo in 1925 to serve these leisure drivers. Other Cali-fornia innovations related to car culture: the strip mall, the de-tached garage and the drive-in restaurant -- not to mention the first “drive-in church,” right here in Orange County. This work is part of a series produced by James in the 1960s depicting used-car lots along Harbor Boulevard in Costa Mesa. James is a profes-sor emeritus of art at California State University, Fullerton.
3. Springtime Comes to Shumway
Julie Raymond Poulosky Watercolor on paper. 1940s The Hilbert Collection
Born in Philadelphia, Julie Raymond Poulosky married a U.S. Marine and traveled all over the country, finally settling in Cali-fornia in the 1920s, where she would devote the rest of her life to portraying the beautiful landscapes of her adopted state. This painting, of a scene in rural California as if glimpsed from the road or a train window, captures the farmland almost as if it were a living, breathing thing, with the land and trees bursting into leaf or bloom and mountains seesawing up toward the sky.
4. Chavez Ravine
Oscar Van Young Gouache on paper. 1940 The Hilbert Collection
Oscar Van Young (born Van Jung in Vienna, Austria in 1906; died 1991) offers a view of Los Angeles’s Chavez Ravine community about a decade before the forced clear-out of houses and resi-dents by the city, using eminent domain, in the 1950s. Before the eviction, the mostly Mexican American community was one of ramshackle houses, dirt roads, rusting cars and roaming animals (as depicted here by Van Young) – but it was also a neighborhood of strong roots, friendships and family connections. The eviction was for a planned public-housing project that never came to frui-tion (Dodger Stadium stands on the site today). Van Young was one of the most prominent members of the Los Angeles art com-munity from roughly 1940 to the 1980s.
5. Freeway Builders
H. Von Wallenberg Watercolor and gouache on board. 1949 The Hilbert Collection
Not much is known of this artist, other than the signature on the painting, but this illustration
H. Von Wallenberg, “Freeway Builders.”
8. Sunset on the Breakwater at Redondo Beach
Keith Crown Watercolor. 1960s The Hilbert Collection
California Scene paintings, though always representa-tional, often include elements of abstraction, particu-larly from the 1960s on. The works of Keith Crown (1918-2010) show strong influence from Ma-tisse, Cezanne and Van Gogh in their attempt to capture the ineffable by using color, line and form: not only the sights, but also the sounds, the smells, the wind, the very essence of a place. This depiction of fishermen along the Redondo Beach breakwater powerfully evokes the location, the action of weather and surf, and the colors of ocean and sky, while balancing on the edge of abstraction.
9. San Francisco Skyline at Night
Jack Laycox Watercolor on paper. 1960s The Hilbert Collection
Jack Laycox (1921-1984) was the only California Scene watercolor painter to consistently use large areas of black paint in his work. Cityscapes were one of his trademark subjects, and for drama he often depicted them at night, with the colorful lights creating bold patterns. He would often set up his easel on the streets and paint what he saw, leading to works that are dynamically impression-istic. Here, the downtown San Francisco skyline fairly pulses with life, gleaming with colors that stand out vividly against the dense black of Laycox’s night sky.
Keith Crown, “Sunset on the Breakwater at Redondo Beach.”
10. San Onofre – Camp Pendleton
Rex Brandt Watercolor on paper. 1969 The Hilbert Collection
Rex Brandt (1914-2000) had a highly successful painting career that stretched from the 1930s until well into the 1990s. In the ‘60s, he began to travel all over San Diego County, driving until he saw a scene that inspired him, and then setting up his easel and painting on location. These works became a book: Rex Brandt’s San Diego: Land of the Sundown Sea (1969). Here he depicts the undulating hills near San Onofre, with the Quonset huts and signage in the foreground setting us firmly on military ground: Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.
11. Afternoon at Divers Cove
Phil Dike Watercolor on paper. 1980 The Hilbert Collection
One of the founders of the California Scene style, and Southern Californian through and through, Phil Dike (1906-1990) was born in Redlands. He studied at Chouinard and for many years was employed by Walt Disney, teaching drawing composition to Disney Studios animators and working on such classic films as Snow White and Fantasia as a sketch artist, color coordinator and advisor. By the time he left Disney in 1945, he was also a well-known fine artist and recipient of many awards. He would go on to teach at Chouinard, found art schools with Rex Brandt and Phil Paradise, and from 1950 was professor of art at Scripps College and Claremont Graduate School, retiring as emeritus professor in 1970. This 1980 watercolor sums up the legend and reality of the Golden State as a center of travel, tourism and leisure allure: family members relax on their Laguna Beach hotel balcony as a variety of waterside activities take place below.
The Hilbert Museum of California Art at Chapman University is being
established thanks to the generosity of Mark and Janet Hilbert. The
collection, which includes oils, watercolors, sketches and lithographs of
urban and industrial scenes, coastal views, farms, ranches and land-
scapes of everyday life, is a significant repository of art of the 20th
century by California artists. Celebrating the unique artistic and
cultural development of California, the collection will be housed in the
Villa Park Orchards Packing House — once the largest citrus packing
house in Orange, and at the time of its closing in 2006, the last to oper-
ate in Orange County.
Though the official gallery won't open until 2017, a temporary museum
is slated to open in the fall of 2015, located next to the Partridge Dance
Center on Chapman University's main campus.
Opening Fall 2015
The Hilbert Museum
of California Art
Thank you to the following…
Mark & Janet Hilbert
University Advancement Natalie Lawler, Assistant Collections Registrar and Preparator
Eric Leffler, Collections Assistant
Dean Charlene Baldwin Laurie Cussalli
Margaret Ellsworth Essraa Nawar
Members of the Art, Exhibits and Events Committee
Thank you also to Facilities Management, Media Services and Sodexo
ABOUT THE CURATOR
Mary Platt, APR has been director of communications and media relations at Chapman University since 2004, after previously holding PR positions at The Getty Center and Segerstrom Center for the Arts. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Michigan State University, where she holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in art history, was the Calder Scholar in Art History and taught classes in the history of Western art. She serves as managing editor of Chapman Magazine and has written articles on the arts for such publications as the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register, Performing Arts Magazine, Art of the Times and many more. She wrote and edited the book The Chapman University Collections (Chapman University Press, 2011) on the university’s art and historical collections.
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