California Heritage Museum in Santa Monica
When I travel, I like to see if there’s an art museum in the area that I haven’t visited before and that may have something new or different either in a permanent collection or on exhibit. That is just what I found on a recent trip to Los Angeles. I happened to pick up a copy of the Santa Monica Daily Press, a daily free paper. Under happenings or events or some such title was listed California Regionalism: Oils on Canvas. Although I’ve been to LA (and Santa Monica) quite a few times, I was not aware of the California Heritage Museum, where the exhibit was showing. Today’s Image is a shot of the museum and marquee.
I even had to Google the name and location to see exactly where it is—on Main St. and Ocean Park just a couple of blocks from the beach. What we found when we got there was not an art museum, but rather an historical museum about the early days of Santa Monica, and it also hosts art exhibits.
The museum itself is the restored 1894 ‘craftsman’ style home of Roy Jones who founded Santa Monica. The first floor is full of California vintage furniture of the era and an interesting collection of individual decorative tiles. The tiles were handcrafted with motifs ranging from Spanish and Mexican heritage to flowers and agricultural products related to Southern California. Several times a year the museum hosts a “tile show" and auction for collectors.
One of the rooms also held a most interesting exhibit of Mexican Calendar Girls, the Golden Age of Mexican Calandar Art 1930-1960. It’s a collection of lithographic prints in color of lovely Mexican women that “embody Mexican history, culture, and aspirations.” That’s something you don’t see everyday.
But what we came for was on the second floor, the California Regionalism exhibit. It’s a collection of popular California artists of the time period of the 1920s to the 1950s. The paintings depict everyday life, mostly in Southern California, but with a few from the Bay Area, too, in a period of tremendous growth. They were part of an art movement called Regionalism, of which I’ll have to find out more. The paintings include rural and desert settings, coastal scenes, and, of course, cityscapes of Los Angeles during the era.
The artists whose works are exhibited are Paul Sample, Barse Miller, Ben Messick, Millard Sheets, Phil Dike, Ralph Hulett , Phil Paradise, and Emil Kosa, Jr. I was not familiar with the work of any of these artists, which actually made the viewing more enjoyable, as I was experiencing their art for the first time. As a group, the styles range from loose and airy to contemporary to realism, but you can see the individuality of each artist in his work.
This little museum exhibiting such interesting and beautiful paintings was a lucky find. I especially liked the work of Emil Kosa, so the next OrbisPlanis art blog will be about him and some of his paintings in the California Regionalism exhibit.