In and Out of California: Travels of American Impressionists

November 3, 2002 – March 9, 2003

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The spotlight on Impressionism in California has had both positive and negative repercussions. While increased interest has led to exhibitions and books that have surveyed and, for the first time, studied artists in California during the early part of the twentieth century, it has also effectively ghettoized these artists. Even more troubling is an underlying perception by Eastern critics that West Coast artists—merely by a geographic twist of fate—were not among the first rank. Although in some cases this is undoubtedly true, the same could be said of artists anywhere in the country.  We would never think of Childe Hassam as a regional Connecticut painter, even though he spent a significant amount of time there during the beginning of the century. Nor would we consider John Twachtman, who lived and worked primarily in New England, as a regional artist.
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The same standards should apply to painters such as Maurice Braun, considered the dean of San Diego painters, who went back and forth to the East Coast, and lived in Connecticut during the early 1920s before returning permanently to Southern California Colin Campbell Cooper spent the last several years of his life in California; however, he was one of the first artists to be inspired by the growing skyline of New York City, in addition to the exotic locales of India and Burma. William Ritschel, traditionally associated with Northern California, not only exhibited at the National Academy of Design in New York City beginning in 1905, but also continued to exhibit there every year until 1938. His two-year trip around the world in 1924 culminated in an exhibition of works at the Milch Gallery in New York City. These artists perceived themselves as part of the international art community, and their diverse backgrounds and experiences serve as a clear testament to their roles as American Impressionists.