The Land of Sunshine: Paintings from the Irvine Museum Collection
February 8 - March 25, 2009
Come ye! To this fair land of fruits and flowers;
Where balmy ocean breezes ever play;
And all the year the birds sing in the bowers;
Where autumn winds ne’er sadden with their moan;
And sudden chilling changes are unknown;
No winter’s icy scepter reaches here;
It lies beyond the frozen realm of snow–
A country yielding happiness and cheer;
Where pleasure, toil, and rest alike bestow–
On mind and body–vigor, strength, and health;
And rich in boundless resources of wealth.
Excerpt from the poem “Land of Sunshine” by C. R. Pattee,
published in the first issue of Charles Lummis’ journal,
The Land of Sunshine, June 1894
I have taken the title for this exhibition of California Impressionist paintings, lent by The Irvine Museum, from the magazine The Land of Sunshine, published by the colorful Charles Lummis between 1894 and 1902. With a large national circulation, this monthly magazine touted the pleasures of Southern California: its year-round sunshine, temperate climate, and indigenous culture. Backed by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, The Land of Sunshine did what it set out to do–lure many people to move to the Los Angeles area. Among these were artists who would soon make this region a mecca for Impressionist landscape painting.
Because of its benign climate, Southern California was well-suited to a late flowering of Impressionism, a style developed originally in the late 1860’s in France by Claude Monet and his contemporaries, as Impressionism was predicated upon painting outside (the French term being en plein air). What was more, the landscape stretching from Santa Barbara to San Diego was as beautiful as France and, at that time (1900-1930), virtually undeveloped.
Many of the artists whose paintings are in this exhibition had studied in France and were familiar with the shorthand style of pure color and broken brush strokes developed by the Impressionists to capture the fleeting effects of outdoor light. However, most of them were not landscape painters before they came to California, but had begun their careers elsewhere as successful portrait, figure, or still-life painters. Arriving in California between 1896 and 1918, these artists were inspired by the natural setting they found here, and they hoped to immortalize the oak-studded hillsides, the blossoming grasslands and deserts, and the rocky seashore of their newly adopted home.
Although successful during their lifetimes, the Impressionist artists fell out of favor after the Depression in 1929. Some institutions that had collected their paintings, like the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, sold them off in the late 1970’s. Since then, there has been a resurgence of interest in these paintings, fueled by scholarly publications, the revitalization of interest in plein air painting among younger artists, and the encouragement of the California Art Club, which was founded in 1909 by many of the original California Impressionists.
Joan Irvine Smith and her mother, Athalie R. Clarke, were among the vanguard who appreciated the significance of these paintings. They collected them and established The Irvine Museum in 1992. As Jean Stern, the Executive Director of The Irvine Museum, has said, “…the mission of The Irvine Museum calls for the preservation and display of California Impressionist paintings. Their intrinsic, aesthetic beauty documents the beauty of California in a bygone era. They inspire a reverence and concern for our environment, and they call for the responsible development and use of our natural resources.”1
We are most grateful to Jean Stern and to Merika Gopaul, Registrar of The Irvine Museum, for making these paintings available for the inaugural exhibition in our new building.
- Elizabeth P. Knowles
1. Jean Stern, “The California Impressionist Style in Perspective,” California Impressionists, 1996,
the Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia, and The Irvine Museum, p. 84.
Charles Fletcher Lummis (1859–1928)
A fascinating man with endless energy, multi-faceted talent, and imagination, Charles F. Lummis played an important role in the development of Los Angeles and in a growing national appreciation for the history and culture of the Southwest. As a young journalist, straight out of Harvard and living in Cincinnati, he was offered a job with the Los Angeles Times, and he decided to make the 3,500 mile journey on foot. Dressed in knickerbockers, carrying his knapsack and Winchester rifle, he became a news-story himself, both for the inhabitants who ran into him on the road and for the people back home who read of his adventures. Along the way, he fell in love with the Southwest and its Spanish and Native American inhabitants, whose welfare he championed on several occasions later in life. In Los Angeles, he joined his wife, who had arrived from Ohio before him, and took up his post as the first City Editor. He enjoyed the job enormously; however, the work was very demanding, and he ended up having a stroke that paralyzed his entire left side. He quit his job and moved to New Mexico to recuperate. There he met his second wife, Eva Douglas, who agreed to come to Los Angeles to facilitate the divorce. Needing to support his young family, Lummis was hired in 1894 as the editor of a new, national magazine created by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce to publicize the delights of Southern California living. The monthly, originally called The Land of Sunshine but renamed Out West after 1902, published works by famous authors, such as John Muir and Jack London, as well as over 500 pieces on a variety of topics by Lummis himself.
Lummis also built his own house, called “El Alisal” for the sycamore tree that grew on the land, and many wild parties, called “noises” were held there. Made of the very stones from the Arroyo Seco creek nearby, the house is now the headquarters of the Los Angeles Historical Society. Lummis wrote over two dozen books and was tireless in his pursuit of historic preservation. He helped to found the Landmarks’ Club of Southern California, the Sequoya League, (a Native American rights group), and The Southwest Museum, which came to house many of the Native American artifacts that he had collected over the years. Lummis was a colorful character, and he made a lasting imprint on the art and culture of Southern California.
Bingham, Edwin R. Charles F. Lummis: Editor of the Southwest. San Marino, CA:
The Huntington Library, 1955.
Thompson, Mark. American Character: The Curious Life of Charles Fletcher Lummis
and the Rediscovery of the Southwest. New York: Arcade Publishing, 2001.
Maurice Braun (1877-1941), Morning Sun, San Diego Bay, Oil on canvas, Private Collection, Courtesy of The Irvine Museum
Benjamin Brown (1865-1942), Untitled Landscape, Oil on canvas, Private Collection, Courtesy of The Irvine Museum
John Frost (1890-1937), Untitled Desert Landscape, Oil on board, Private Collection, Courtesy of The Irvine Museum
John Gamble (1863-1957), Goleta Point, Oil on canvas, Private Collection, Courtesy of The Irvine Museum
John Gamble (1863-1957), Morning Mists, Wild Lilac, Oil on canvas, Private Collection, Courtesy of The Irvine Museum
John Gamble (1863-1957), Red Buckwheat, Oil on canvas, The Irvine Museum
John Gamble (1863-1957), Spring Once in a Lifetime, (Lupine and Owl Clover), 1927, Oil on canvas, Private Collection, Courtesy of The Irvine Museum
William Alexander Griffith (1866-1940), In Laguna Canyon, Oil on canvas, The Irvine Museum
William Alexander Griffith (1866-1940), Laguna Canyon, Oil on canvas, The Irvine Museum
William Alexander Griffith, (1866-1940), Laguna Landscape, 1924, Pastel, Private Collection, Courtesy of The Irvine Museum
Paul Grimm (1892-1974), Nature Symphony, Oil on canvas, Private Collection, Courtesy of The Irvine Museum
Paul Grimm (1892-1974), Under the Sun, Oil on canvas, Private Collection, Courtesy of The Irvine Museum
Paul Grimm (1892-1974), Winter Desert, Oil on canvas, Private Collection, Courtesy of The Irvine Museum
Anna Hills (1882-1930), Springtime, Banning, California, 1916, Oil on paper board, Private Collection, Courtesy of The Irvine Museum
Anna Hills (1882-1930), When the Desert Blooms, 1922, Oil on canvas, Private Collection, Courtesy of The Irvine Museum
John Hilton (1904-1983), Desert Springs Oil on board, Private Collection, Courtesy of The Irvine Museum
William Lees Judson (1842-1928), Moonlight, Laguna Beach, Oil on canvas, The Irvine Museum
William Lees Judson (1842-1928), Mustard, Oil on canvas, Private Collection, Courtesy of The Irvine Museum
Edgar Payne (1883-1947), Capistrano Canyon, Oil on canvas, Private Collection, Courtesy of The Irvine Museum
Hanson Puthuff (1875-1972), Topanga in Spring, Oil on canvas, Private Collection, Courtesy of The Irvine Museum
Dedrick Stuber (1878-1954), Palm Springs Desert, Oil on canvas, Private Collection, Courtesy of The Irvine Museum
Gardner Symons (1861-1930), Poppies and Cherry Blossoms, 1903, Oil on canvas, Private Collection, Courtesy of The Irvine Museum
Theodore Wores (1859-1939), Lake Merced, Oil on canvas, The Irvine Museum
Karl Yens (1868-1945), Breaking Waves, Oil on board, Private Collection, Courtesy of The Irvine Museum
Charles F. Lummis, ed., The Land of Sunshine, Volumes III–VII, June 1895–November 1897. Lent by Joe Donnelly, Highland, CA