THE IRVINE MUSEUM
When one hears of Impressionist Art, thoughts immediately turn to the French Masters painting with their pointillism views of the Seine, whirling pastel blurs of ballerinas and daubs of bright colored Polynesians, but impressionists were painting in California as well, inspired by the bucolic scenery of the Golden state’s misty mountain landscapes and roiling sea coasts. The Irvine Museum, founded in 1992 by Joan Irvine Smith and her mother, Athalie R. Clarke, is dedicated to preserving this uniquely Californian brand of American Impressionism sometimes called Plein-Air style, which flourished in California studios from 1890 to 1930.
I recently found myself standing on a street corner waiting for the light to change, contemplating the passage of traffic, an individual human being surrounded by a one ton cocoon of steel, glass, rubber and plastic, taking the space between four wheels and bumpers, powered by the bones of a previous species long since extinct, just to get from point a to point b, a job, a trip to the store, a cup of coffee. Then I imagined each individual multiplied by millions. Oh, what a footprint we leave upon the Earth. How does she sustain us? Before the developments of cities of concrete and glass and the ever-spreading suburbs and bedroom communities which grasped and enveloped the land, artists were inspired to record the splendor of nature of this varied beautiful land. With a renaissance of the interest in the natural world disappearing under ribbons of tarmac, a look at these painting transports the viewer to a time when the land named for a mythical lost continent and its bountiful beauty were almost limitless. Such can be found at the small but quite special Irvine Museum.
The current exhibition at the Irvine Museum entitled “All Things Bright and Beautiful” runs through June 11, 2011. Represented by artists like Alfred Mitchell and his painting In Morning Light, displaying his sense of dramatic realism, Arthur Rider from Laguna Beach whose The Spanish Boat is representative of his emphasis on seascapes and fishing scenes. Colin Campbell Cooper’s rendering of the beautiful paintings of gardens of California.
Irvine Museum is located on the ground floor of the Waterfield office
building in the heart of the city of Irvine, itself a pure example of
the shift from open land to suburbia, and an example of a particular
beauty of another kind. On a previous occasion when it was first built,
myself on a expedition to photograph the distinctive architecture of
the suburban landscape and this impressive building of white marble and
tall gleaming reflective mirrored glass seemed of particular note and
a fitting contrast to the old world art found within.
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