Colin Campbell Cooper, California State Building, San Diego Exposition, 1916. Oil on canvas. SBMA, Gift of the Family of the Artist.
Plein-Air Painting from San Francisco to San Diego
December 15, 2012 – June 23, 2013
This exhibition presents a selection of early modern paintings that celebrate the topography of California. By the end of the 19th century, landscape painting had become the primary vehicle for depicting national identity in American art. California provided breathtaking scenery of newly integrated lands for painters working “en plein air,” or outdoors. This was an approach employed by cutting-edge artists in Europe, particularly in France, which artists in America then adapted to create a style that has become the hallmark of what is commonly termed Californian Plein-Air Painting or California Impressionism. In Northern California, an atmospheric, poetic and decorative style called Tonalism was established by the artistic community of San Francisco. Southern California was a mecca for young, modernist artists influenced by French Impressionism, a movement preoccupied with capturing the immediate effects of light and color under ever-changing climactic conditions. The regional style of California Plein-Air Painting was created by a group of cosmopolitan painters, whose mobility was facilitated by the new railroad lines to the West Coast. While technically varied, all of the artists represented here were utterly devoted to depicting the natural paradise we aptly call the Golden State.
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