California Scene Painting

Last updated

California Scene Painting, also known as Southern California Regionalism, is a form of American regionalist art depicting landscapes, places, and people of California. It flourished from the 1920s to the 1960s.



Early 20th century California artists interested in everyday images and themes from the state's 19th century history provided the foundation for the emergence of the regional genre of California Scene Painting. The term was attributed to Los Angeles art critic Arthur Millier, [1] [2] [3] and it referred to watercolors, oil paintings and mosaics of landscapes and scenes of everyday life, [3] [4] such as mountain and coastal scenery, pastoral agricultural valleys, and dynamic cities and highways. [1] [2] [5] Varying in style and subject, California Scene Painting was influenced by a range of precursor styles, notably Impressionism (particularly California Impressionism), Cubism, and Realism. [6]

Notable artists

Notable California scene artists included Emil Kosa Jr., Roger Edward Kuntz, Millard Sheets, Milford Zornes, Phil Dike, Rex Brandt, Phil Paradise, Elsie Palmer Payne, George Post, Elsie Lower Pomeroy, Barse Miller, Paul Sample, Dong Kingman, Anders Aldrin, and Charles Payzant. [3] [4] [2] One group — including Sheets, Dike, Brandt, Miller, Zornes, and Kosa, Jr. — worked in large-scale watercolors. [1]

A 2014 exhibition at the Pasadena Museum of Art included many of the best-known California scene painters. [2]

See also

Related Research Articles

Watercolor painting Type of painting method using water-based solutions

Watercolor or watercolour, also aquarelle, is a painting method in which the paints are made of pigments suspended in a water-based solution. Watercolor refers to both the medium and the resulting artwork. Aquarelles painted with water-soluble colored ink instead of modern water colors are called aquarellum atramento by experts. However, this term has now tended to pass out of use.

American Impressionism Style of painting

American Impressionism was a style of painting related to European Impressionism and practiced by American artists in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. American Impressionism is a style of painting characterized by loose brushwork and vivid colors. The style often depicted landscapes mixed with scenes of upper-class domestic life.

Edgar Alwin Payne American painter

Edgar Alwin Payne was an American painter. He was known as a Western landscape painter and muralist.

Delmer J. Yoakum American painter

Delmer J. Yoakum was an American fine artist, oil and watercolor painter, designer, serigrapher, Disneyland and Hollywood motion picture studio scenic artist.

James Milford Zornes was an American watercolor artist and teacher known as part of the California Scene Painting movement.

The California Art Club (CAC) is one of the oldest and most active arts organizations in California. Founded in December 1909, it celebrated its centennial in 2009 and into the spring of 2010. The California Art Club originally evolved out of The Painters Club of Los Angeles, a short-lived group that lasted from 1906–09. The new organization was more inclusive, as it accepted women, sculptors and out-of-state artists.

Theodore Lukits American painter (1897–1992)

Theodore Nikolai Lukits was a Romanian American portrait and landscape painter. His initial fame came from his portraits of glamorous actresses of the silent film era, but since his death, his Asian-inspired works, figures drawn from Hispanic California and pastel landscapes have received greater attention.

Maynard Dixon American artist (1875–1946)

Maynard Dixon was an American artist whose body of work focused on the American West. He was married for a time to American photographer Dorothea Lange.

California Impressionism American art movement

The terms California Impressionism and California Plein-Air Painting describe the large movement of 20th century California artists who worked out of doors, directly from nature in California, United States. Their work became popular in the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California in the first three decades after the turn of the 20th century. Considered to be a regional variation on American Impressionism, the painters of the California Plein-Air School are also described as California Impressionists; the terms are used interchangeably.

Victor Matson

Victor Stanley Matson (1895–1972) was one of the California Plein-Air Painters and he was active from the 1920s until his death. He was an active organizer for a number of Southern California arts organizations and served as President of the historic California Art Club from 1961 to 1962. His work was widely exhibited with the Southland art clubs in an era when few galleries were interested in Plein-Air landscapes and he had a solo exhibition at Los Angeles City Hall in 1964.

Tonal Impressionism was an artistic style of "mood" paintings with simplified compositions, done in a limited range of colors, as with Tonalist works, but using the brighter, more chromatic palette of Impressionism. An exhibition titled "Tonal Impressionism" was curated by the art historian Harry Muir Kurtzworth for the Los Angeles Art Association Gallery at the Los Angeles Central Library in June 1937 with the works of a number of prominent California artists. In recent years, the term has also been used to describe a non-linear approach to painting where the subject is massed in with tonal values without the use of underdrawing.

California Tonalism was art movement that existed in California from circa 1890 to 1920. Tonalist are usually intimate works, painted with a limited palette. Tonalist paintings are softly expressive, suggestive rather than detailed, often depicting the landscape at twilight or evening, when there is an absence of contrast. Tonalist paintings could also be figurative, but in them, the figure was usually out of doors or in an interior in a low-key setting with little detail.

Richard E. Miller

Richard E. Miller was an American Impressionist painter and a member of the Giverny Colony of American Impressionists. Miller was primarily a figurative painter, known for his paintings of women posing languidly in interiors or outdoor settings. Miller grew up in St. Louis, studied in Paris, and then settled in Giverny. Upon his return to America, he settled briefly in Pasadena, California and then in the art colony of Provincetown, Massachusetts, where he remained for the rest of his life. Miller was a member of the National Academy of Design in New York and an award-winning painter in his era, honored in both France and Italy, and a winner of France's Legion of Honor. Over the past several decades, he has been the subject of a retrospective exhibition and his work has been reproduced extensively in exhibition catalogs and featured in a number of books on American Impressionism.

Decorative Impressionism

Decorative Impressionism is an art historical term that is credited to the art writer Christian Brinton, who first used it in 1911. Brinton titled an article on the American expatriate painter Frederick Carl Frieseke, one of the members of the famous Giverny Colony of American Impressionists, "The Decorative Impressionist."

Emil Kosa Jr. was an American artist of Czech origin. He was the art director of 20th Century Pictures's special effects department for more than three decades, winning an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects along the way. As a painter of landscapes and urban scenes, he also became known as a prominent member of the California Scene Painting movement.

Elsie Lower Pomeroy American painter

Elsie Lower Pomeroy (1882-1971) was an artist most closely associated with the American Scene Painting movement and specifically California Regionalism or California Scene Painting. She was also one of a small group of botanical illustrators who worked for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the early 20th century.

Rexford Elson Brandt was an American artist and educator. Much of his oeuvre consists of paintings inspired by the life and geography of the West Coast of the United States, particularly California. Brandt worked in multiple mediums including print making, oil painting and watercolor painting. He gained national recognition for his watercolor painting during the period from the mid 1930s to the 1990s. Early in his career he was associated with California Scene Painting but after World War II Brandt focused on complex, semi-abstract works. The depiction of the regenerative warmth of the sun was a central focus of his painting; he wrote that "Everyone has hang-ups, I suppose. Mine is sunshine. Not sunlight -- although I like to paint sunlight too."

The Hilbert Museum of California Art is a U.S. museum located at Chapman University in Orange, California. The museum's collection consists of more than 1,000 paintings – primarily watercolors and oil paintings by artists of the California Scene Painting movement.

Phil Dike (1906-1990) was an American painter and art teacher. He painted watercolors, and he taught at Scripps College and the Claremont Graduate University. His work is in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Academy of Design, and the Library of Congress.

Clarence Keiser Hinkle was an American painter and art educator. His art studio was in Laguna Beach, California and later in Santa Barbara, California.


  1. 1 2 3 McClelland, Gordon T. (July 20, 2013). "The Golden Age of California Scene Paintings". AFA Retrieved March 21, 2019.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "California Scene Paintings from 1930 to 1960 on View at Pasadena Museum of California Art". Huffpost, April 15, 2013.
  3. 1 2 3 "California Scene Paintings". Hilbert Museum of California Art.
  4. 1 2 "California Scene Paintings: 1920s–1970s". Irvine Museum website, 2014.
  5. Stern, Jean, and Molly Siple. California Light: A Century of Landscapes, 2011.
  6. Brown, Michael D. Views from Asian California, 1920–1965, 1992.

Further reading