Along the Way: Ray Strong Landscape Painter

June 30, 2002 - September 8, 2002

Los Olivos ~ Ray Strong, often referred to as the “dean” of Santa Barbara landscape painting, was the subject of the summer exhibition at the Wildling Art Museum, which opened to the public on June 30. The exhibition of over 35 oil paintings, entitled “Along the Way: Ray Strong Landscape Painter,” had representative works from almost every decade of the artists’ life. While some of these monumental landscape paintings of the coastal hills and undulating Santa Barbara back-country were familiar from reproductions, others loaned from the Strong Family Trust, had never been seen by outsiders. Some from the early part of Strong’s career, were scenes from the southwest, including the Grand Canyon and Canyon de Chelly.

According to Arturo Tello, the curator of the exhibition and a close friend of Strong’s since 1981, what distinguishes this exhibition from earlier exhibits of the artist’s work, is this intimacy. Each of these small, but important, paintings, is layered not only with the wise and thoughtful technique of a man who always seeks to “get the feel of the earth’s volume and substance, and the forces that underlie the surface,” but also with a deep emotional expression of a man who loves his wife, his family, his friends and his world.”

Ray Strong was born in 1905 in Corvallis, Oregon, and received his early training from private teachers, as well as at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute), and the Art Students’ League in New York, where he studied with Frank Vincent DuMond. As Strong has often said, he learned most studying directly from Nature. During the Depression, he worked for the federal Public Works for Art Project painting murals and dioramas. Some of these were seen and admired by Ventress L. VanderHoof, who later became the Director of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, and in 1960 Dr. VanderHoof invited Strong to Santa Barbara to paint nine dioramas for the new Bird Habitat Hall. When the commission was completed, Strong and his wife, Betty, elected to remain in Santa Barbara, where Strong refined his approach to landscape painting, co-founded the Santa Barbara Art Institute, and influenced a whole generation of younger plein air painters, known as “The Oak Group.”

In tribute to Ray Strong, the Wildling Museum published a monograph about his life and work with essays by Arturo Tello, Larry Iwerks, Michael Whitt, and Gloria Rexford Martin, with a foreword by Dennis Power, former Director of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, and full-color illustrations of many of the paintings in the exhibition. Strong himself was present to autograph these at the opening reception June 30, 3-5 p.m. The exhibition will continued through September 8, 2002, at the Wildling Art Museum, 2329 Jonata Street, Los Olivos (between Mattei’s Tavern and St. Mark’s Episcopal Church).