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BBH Gallery Sign

Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery Monthly
March 2008 News, Articles, and Opinions
from the world of California’s Heritage Art

Preview our new gallery exhibit
WPA California Style Watercolors

1580 Eastshore Road, PO Box 325, Bodega Bay, CA 94923, 707-875-2911 (map)
email: BBHGallery@BodegaBayHeritageGallery.com | www.BodegaBayHeritageGallery.com

In this issue:

- Milford Zornes, Teacher and Artist Has Passed
- The news from Bodega Bay ...
Amgen Tour of California visits Bodega Bay
- Bold Depictions of California and Californians, WPA California Style Watercolors
- Care and Framing of Collectible Watercolors
- The Chouinard (shwee-nar) Institute 1921-1972
- Gallery Notes
- Up coming Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery exhibit, "California Painting, San Francisco and North"
- Museum links: exhibits relating to Early California Art

Milford Zornes, Teacher and Artist Has Passed, February 24, 2008 at age 100
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin: "A Genuine Artist" and slideshow

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Tour of California through Bodega Bay
Amgen Tour of California as it rolled into Bodega Bay ... photo by Daniel Rohlfing

Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery salutes the 150 racers of the Amgen Tour of California. These extraordinary cyclists rolled through Bodega Bay on Monday, February 18 on the first leg of their 8 day 650 mile tour of California. The world's top professional teams began in Palo Alto south of San Francisco. On the second leg of the tour, they rode north through Bodega Bay, then east to Santa Rosa. The next legs of the race took them east to Sacramento, south to Modesto, west to Monterey and south, and ended in Pasadena on February 24.

The tour visited many of the California scenes painted by a long heritage of California plein air painters. Through vineyards, past beaches, through redwoods, orchards, mountains and deserts, these athletes exhibited their incredible endurance and skill. Like California's painters, these cyclists showed off California in a most colorful and festive way. Like the swallows of Capistrano, Bodega Bay looks forward to their return.

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Milford Zornes Mt San Antonio Large Thumbnail
Milford Zornes

Bold Depictions of
California and Californians

WPA California Style Watercolors
A Truly Californian Art Form
When artists first came to the Golden State, their European training and traditions were used to interpret paintings of California’s natural beauty. But because California’s scenery was different from Europe and so diverse, California painting soon began to take on new styles and a Californian look better suited to this new land.
In the realm of watercolor painting, this is especially true. At the turn of the twentieth century most of our early watercolor painters were trained in Europe or New York. Their watercolor paintings began as elaborate pencil drawings with areas of their compositions showing a high degree of detail. To these drawings were added carefully applied watercolor, rendering a tight appearance in the final painting.
Maurice Logan Sea Gull Cove Large Thumbnail
Maurice Logan
But from the roaring mid 1920s through the post war mid 1950’s, watercolor painting in California took on a bold new look. Most artists used a large, full sheet format, with free ranging broad brush stokes of vivid color. They painted scenes of everyday California life, city street scenes, sights of industry, Californians in their daily work routine, and scenes of California beaches, harbors, and vast open landscapes, often showing farm and ranch livestock scenes.
Watercolor artists in California established a statewide community by forming the California Watercolor Society in 1921. Artists including Marion Wachtel, Oscar Borg, William Ritschel, Karl Yens, Hanson Puthuff and Dana Bartlett formed their organization and began exhibiting their work together. But as the roaring twenties continued, some of the new bolder watercolor artists joined the CWS, and established their newer style among art lovers. Millard Sheets, Phil Dike, Lee Blair, Tom Craig, Barse Miller, Paul Sample, Hardie Gramatky and Emil Kosa Jr. were among the earlier practitioners of this new style. Phil Dike After Sailing Large Thumbnail
Phil Dike
Milford Zornes Orchard Under Gray Skies Large Thumbnail
Milford Zornes
They used pencil sketching very little, if at all, and often allowed the white paper to become a color value in their large 20” x 30” full sheet paintings. As their works accumulated, art critics and museum curators noticed this fresh, bold, and California regional style. Popular exhibitions of this work showed up all over America in both galleries and museums.
All of California shared in the California style. In Northern California, San Franciscans George Post, Dong Kingman, and Maurice Logan preserved some fantastic scenes of the period of the city of San Francisco, the Bay, and the surrounding region. Back South, the movement attracted new adherents, Milford Zornes, Mary Blair, Ejnar Hansen and Standish Backus. Paul Sample Farmer in a Chair Large Thumbnail
Paul Sample
Lewis Suzuki The Mill 1960 Large Thumbnail
Lewis Suzuki
Art cannot be separated from the times in which it was created. In the 1930’s the Great Depression colored the art world. During these desperate times, buyers did not exist, and artists could not make a living. Along came the WPA, the Works Progress Administration, which was set up to put Americans back to work rebuilding America’s infrastructure. People worked on a wide range of construction projects, building schools, post offices, bridges, roads, dams, and working on our national parks. Artists of all kinds were hired by the WPA to inspire workers to work hard and pull together to help rebuild America. Painting artists were used to paint large public murals and mosaics, and many of these were done using the new California style. Americans were depicted in these works of art being about the task of working together to rebuild the nation.
At this time, animation was establishing itself as part of the film industry. Walt Disney and other producers of animation employed California style artists to give an authentic feel to their films, what the artists often called “getting the smell of the place." Ralph Hulett was one such Disney artist who was quite skilled at this.
Ralph Hulett Fishing From a Beach Large Thumbnail
Ralph Hulett
Robert Landry Shack and Windmill Large Thumbnail
Robert Landry
(San Diego Watercolor artist who worked as a staff artist for the Air Force and later the Pentagon)
Again, world events intruded into the art world. World War II slowed and changed the California Style Watercolor movement. As people from all walks of life ceased peacetime endeavors and went to war, so too did the artists. Oftentimes, they had artistic duties in the military. Some of these watercolor artists made paintings of the action and were published to help give people a sense of what was happening in the war. Other artists worked on training films and did technical drawings for the military, while others created war related posters.
When the war ended, returning artists found the art world changing rapidly. Art schools swelled with hopeful GI students, and America was ready for a new reality, a peaceful expansion unparalleled in history. California art began to embrace newer abstract styles. Artists such as Alexander Nepote and Stanton McDonald Wright became key figures in the development of abstract art on the Pacific Coast. Some of the adherents of California Style Watercolors formed smaller organizations to preserve their California Style. Artists such as Maurice Logan, Rene Weaver, and Harold Gretzner formed a group in Northern California, while in the South, Emil Kosa Jr., Ralph Hulett and Standish Backus continued an effort to reestablish the form. Alexander Nepote Seaside Farm Large Thumbnail
Alexander Nepote
Thelma Speed Houston San Francisco Fog Large Thumbnail
Thelma Speed Houston
Today, there is a resurgence of appreciation for the WPA California Style Watercolor Movement and the artists who created it. In their time, they were bold statements of a contemporary California life, but today, they preserve for us scenes of a California busy building itself, growing in bold new diverse directions as diverse and bold as California’s geography.
When Europeans first arrived, California was a land of promise, home of the California Dream. The scenes depicted in these California Style Watercolors exhibit the builders and scenes of that dream. It's a dream we’re reforming for ourselves, and touching base with the artists of the California Watercolor Movement can only inspire us to do our task well. Elmer Stanhope House by the Bay Large Thumbnail
Elmer Stanhope

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An exhibition of California Style Watercolors is a good opportunity to discuss some issues regarding the framing and preservation of older watercolors. Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery has as part of its mission statement to get the vintage paintings "ready for their next 100 years." This has particular applicability because when these watercolors were originally framed, people did not always understand about the effects of time, sunlight, and acid materials. It is very common when you take older watercolor framing apart to find lines of "matt burn", stain from cardboard, corrugated, or wood backing, and various harmful tapes and glues.

The short course on renewing old framing is: Don't have the glass touching the watercolor, but instead create an air space using spacers in the frame, or an edge of matboard under the glass. If the watercolor paper is close to the wood of the frame, isolate the wood with acid-free lining materials. The matboard that touches the watercolor must be acid-free, and if any other material such as a wood filet would touch the watercolor, it must be backed with an acid-free lining. Have any glue or old tape removed from the front and back of the watercolor. Have it hinged (usually from the top only) rather than taped or glued to acid-free backing material. The back of the framing should be sealed to discourage entry of moisture or particulates (or even little bugs).

This is the "basics" and not the whole story, because there are various degrees and standards that can be met. There are also various conservation possibilities concerning removal of "matt burn" and overall acid "time staining" both to eliminate the distraction of extraneous marks, but also to restore the artist's intended color balance. There are choices of glass that provide differing degrees of protection from UV damage, and different degrees of clarity, but museum glass is not only expensive but also requires special handling.

Keep your watercolor out of direct sunlight. No matter how much protection your glass or plexi offers, sunlight is the enemy of watercolors. Keep it away from any situation where condensation might form inside the glass, such as taking it from an environment that has some moisture, and baking it in the back of your parked car. Condensation might dot the glass on the inside, or it might drop on the paint. Don't place or store the watercolor face down; instead, remember that it is held lightly in place and can shift if you subject it to forces for which the mounting system was not designed. For the same reason, remember to keep the hinged edge up so that the weight of the paper does not distort to the side, etc.

Don't scrub the glass or plexi, nor use chemicals for cleaning. Don't even touch museum glass with your bare fingers. Keep it away from where kitchen, fireplace, or other atmospheric substances may coat the glass. Pressurized air, used from the proper distance, is a good way to dust and yet preserve both the glass and the framing.

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The Chouinard (shwee-nar) Institute
Yes, that’s the way it is pronounced.  One of Los Angeles’ most influential art schools was founded in 1921 by a woman, Nelbert Murphy Chouinard, an artist and an educator on a mission  to spread the joy of art.  She once explained to The Literary Digest that the name of the institute, pronounced was “... oui as the French say “yes,” almost “shwee-nar.”

In its prime, the institute was the teaching home of Millard Sheets and Phil Dike.  Together, their artistic visions and teachings influenced a whole new generation of California Style watercolor artists.  But the school had a much wider impact.  In the field of animation, many of Chouinard grads were employed as Walt Disney animators.  The school also influenced forms of west coast modernism, ceramics, pop art, and conceptualism, fashion design, architecture, and forms of surf and rock culture.  The mission of the school was a grand experiment, a labor of love to offer art to the community.

In 1961 with the assistance of Walt and Roy Disney, the Chouinard Institute merged with the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music to create the California Institute of the Arts.   After Nelbert Murphy Chouinard died in 1969, the California Institute of the Arts closed in 1972.  Over its tenure, the school had some 400 instructors and over 50,000 students, an amazingly talented and diverse community of artists who proudly called themselves "Chouinardians."

Gallery Notes

Booklets for our current exhibit, "California Style WPA Watercolors," and our previous exhibit, "Painters of the Desert" are available.

local West Sonoma County gallery happenings

At Local Color Gallery, which is in our same building, the large-scale paintings of Robert DeVee are on view and garnering very favorable attention with their pleasing and skillful qualities of depicting water scenes, often with boats - "Floating World" - much the same attraction as the lily-pad paintings by Monet.

The Ren Brown Collection up from us at the corner on Hwy 1 had a very successful participation in the Arts of Pacific Asia 2008 exhibition at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco in early February. We visited it and were very impressed with the print images that were captivating many buyers. Their current show at their gallery is Recent Acquisitions.

Branscomb's bed & breakfast across the upper parking lot always has art on view.

West County Design in Valley Ford presents interesting crafted furniture and surfaces - see the inclusions tables across the street at Rocker Oysterfeller's bar area, and paintings by local artists. See also the original paintings at Rocker's.

Christopher Queen Galleries in Duncans Mills on the Russian River is about to present its annual "Frugal Collector" show, this year featuring contemporary tonalist painters. And of course there are the Early California gems upstairs as always.

Quercia Gallery in Duncans Mills will be presenting new sculptures by Bobbi Quercia, and has a show of quiet and subtle paintings by Ron Quercia of local beaches and foggy bay scenes - just the thing to bring a sense of calm and beauty to our home environments.

Quicksilver Mine Co. in Forestville will present works by Lauren Dicioccio.

Graton Gallery in Graton continues with its Invitational Exhibition 2 of 25 contemporary California artists.

Coming in May & June '08

California Paintings,
San Francisco and North

Nels Hagerup

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Links to Current Museum Exhibits Relevant to Early California Art

Special Exhibit: Milford Zornes: An American Artist

California Mission, October 23 - March 15, 2008
Permanent Exhibit: Early California Art
Edwin Deakin: California Painters of the Picturesque
Jan 28 - April 20, 2008

The Monterey Cypress: Celebrating an Icon
Masterworks of California's Painting
by Armin Hansen, Xavier Martinez, William Ritschel,
Art of Central California
Dec 22, '07- Jun 22, '08

Permanent gallery of historic art (closed for renovation)
The Art and History of Early California Dec '07 - ongoing

Art Students League of Los Angeles 1906-33
& 100 Years of Milford Zornes Jan 26 - March 30, 2008

Santa Rosa
Rotating history gallery
Grace Hudson permanent collection
San Francisco
de Young Museum: American Painting Collection
Palm Springs
Permanent collection: American Desert Painters
San Diego
Plein Air Pasts and Present:
A Collaboration between SDMA and the Lux Art Institute
Inspiring Impressionism: The Impressionists and the art of the past
June through September, 2008