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Exhibit Overview

“Clarence Hinkle is one of the most accomplished American painters you probably never heard of.” ~ Richard Chang, The Orange County Register

Laguna Art Museum presented a retrospective of the work of Clarence Hinkle, an early twentieth-century artist who radiated the spirit of modernism. Born in Auburn, California in 1880, Hinkle was one of only a few native Californians of his generation who became nationally known artists. His education was broad and far-reaching, beginning with studies at the Crocker Art Gallery in Sacramento and the California School of Design in San Francisco. He continued his studies in the East at the Art Students League then at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. There he was the recipient of the Cresson traveling scholarship, which afforded him the opportunity to travel and study in Europe. He spent six years abroad, living for a few years in Holland and visiting France, England, Spain, and Italy.

Hinkle returned to the United States in 1912, spending some time in New York City before returning to San Francisco. In 1917 he moved to Los Angeles where he began his teaching career at the Los Angeles School of Art and Design. In 1921 he began teaching at the newly-founded Chouinard School of Art, and the following year he moved to Laguna Beach, where he became an active member of the Laguna Beach Art Association. Hinkle and his wife, Mabel, who had been one of his students, traveled extensively and spent over a year in Europe in 1930 and 1931. In 1935, they moved to Santa Barbara. There they built a home on a large plot of land high on a ridge in Montecito with a wonderful view of the Santa Barbara harbor and Channel Islands in the distance.

Hinkle was an artist in love with the act of painting, seeing every thing with an analytical eye as to how best to interpret the subject in paint. This is evident in the different approaches he took with each subject, whether landscape, portrait, or still life. From his student years up until about 1924 he worked in a style rooted in American impressionism. But in the 1920s he developed a more abstract, gestural style with an emphasis on line that shows the influence of expressionism. Seen close-to, many of his small panel paintings from this period appear as pure abstraction, but when viewed with some distance the dashes and dabs of pigment coalesce into a recognizable image. In the years after his move to Santa Barbara, Hinkle abandoned his abstract, linear style in favor of a more literal interpretation of the landscape. Yet these works too show him applying paint with expressive and energetic strokes. Hinkle painted still lifes, portraits, and figural works that also reflect his growth as an artist from impressionist to modernist. As a member of the California Water Color Society, he painted watercolors, most of them quickly rendered with areas left bare of pigment, allowing the white paper to form part of the composition.

Hinkle was a highly-regarded teacher and mentor for the next generation of artists. His first retrospective in 1955 was curated by one of his best pupils, Phil Dike. Millard Sheets was also one of his students, and both Dike and Sheets wrote tributes to the artist for that exhibition. After his death in 1960, memorial exhibitions were shown in Santa Barbara and Laguna Beach.

Curated by Janet Blake, curator of early California art at Laguna Art Museum, Clarence Hinkle was on display on the museum’s main level and featured over one hundred paintings dating from the early 1900s through the 1950s. A full-color, hardcover book accompanied both (pictured left) the Hinkle exhibition and the complementary exhibition Modern Spirit and the Group of Eight.

This exhibition was generously supported by Historical Collections Council of California; Yvonne Boseker; The Hayden Family; Priscilla and Ranney Draper; Peter and Gail Ochs; Barbara and Tom Stiles; Bente and Gerald E. Buck; Diane and E. Gene Crain; Gaulin Foundation; Martha and James Newkirk; Irene and George Stern, George Stern Fine Arts; Lyn and Rick Balzer; Bonhams Auctioneers & Appraisers; California Art Company LLC; Simon Chiu; Josh Hardy, Hardy Galleries; Heritage Auction; Dr. Mark Judy; Mary and Matt Lawson; Brigitte and Martin Medak; Jarrow Rogovin; Earlene and Herb Seymour; Rick Silver; Marcel Vinh and Dan Hansman; and Ruth Westphal.

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Lecture by Janet Blake

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