More than forty paintings from the Mills College art museum’s private collection are on display for the first time in decades-highlighting American landscapes and portraits from the first half of the 20th century.
Stephan Jost, the art museum director, explained that the paintings in “California Paintings 1910-1940” have been overlooked due to the their previously poor condition. One third of the paintings were sent to be cleaned for the exhibit.
Over half of the paintings in the show were donated by Albert Bender or by his artist friends. Bender, who is the cousin of featured artist Anne Bremer, helped with the building of Mills’ gallery space. He also contributed art and funds to the San Francisco Art Institute and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
“Albert Bender wasn’t super rich,” said Jost. “He was the type of person that could get people to work together.”
Ann Harlow, exhibition curator, explains how historically artists are described as California impressionist, even though there are quite a variety of styles within the exhibit. Previously, the paintings were considered progressive in the 1920s. The artist’s experimentation with perspective, brush strokes, and color helped them create more expressive works.
The Mills collection focuses on northern Californian artists who are often overlooked when discussing early 20th century California art. The San Francisco art scene of the 1920s blossomed and was considered to be right up there with New York’s art scene. Featured artists Rowena Meeks Abdy, Gertrude Partington Albright, Ray Boynton, Maynard Dixon, Helen Forbes, Gottardo Piazzoni, and Joseph Randolph were all Beaux Arts artist. Beaux Arts gallery is considered the first West Coast sales gallery of modern art.