Saving Paradise @ Irvine Museum


by Caroline Newman

Weather is not just a temperature, it is also a signifier of emotion.  Visit Saving Paradise, currently on display at the Irvine Museum, to experience the passionate connection many artists make to their natural surroundings.  The Irvine Museum is known for its incredible collection of California plein-air paintings, yet this special exhibit emphasizes the non-tangible qualities of the landscape; light and emotion.

The California landscape must have provided endless inspiration for painters in the early 20thcentury.  Light casts shadows on the rocky land, and it also changes the sky in fascinating ways.  Benjamin Brown (1865-1942) and Elmer Wachtel (1864-1929) are two featured artists who chose to pay particular attention to the highlights and lowlights within a landscape. The light hitting the trees and water in Brown’s “Autumn Glory” is electrifying.  Combining that with the expressionistic style in which it was painted, and it is easy to see the leaves moving with the breeze.  Wachtel’s “Montecito” conjures up the feeling of an impending storm.  Thick, dark clouds are closing in on the last area of light in the sky.  The terrain beneath is flooded with a grayish/brown gloom which is made more dramatic by the last bit of light hitting a few rocks.  The last moment of brightness remaining through the clouds becomes the focal point before the entire landscape is consumed by the storm.

Paul Grimm’s (1892-1974) “Untitled Landscape with Cloudy Sky” most profoundly illustrates the connection between weather and emotion.  The landscape is portrayed vertically, instead of the more standard horizontal format.  Grimm devoted a majority of the canvas to the sky, with only a sliver of mountain tops visible.  The use of similar color tones in the land and the sky seamlessly ties the work together.  Lightness and darkness combine in the clouds to yield feelings of hope, gloom, and tranquility.  The artists battle with Mother Nature culminates in this tumultuous landscape.

Summer is traditionally a time to connect with the outdoors.  Visit the Irvine Museum’s exhibit to experience how California plein-air paintings transcend a landscape.  The exhibition runs through October 23, 2010.

One Response to “Saving Paradise @ Irvine Museum”

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