Phone: (949) 476-0294

Past Exhibition:

California Scene Paintings: 1920s-1970s

January 18-May 8, 2014

Click on image to see larger view

Between 1920 and 1970 hundreds of talented artists produced oil and watercolor paintings inspired by scenes of everyday life in California. Today these works are being rediscovered. As they are analyzed from a retrospective viewpoint, their value as highly creative fine art and as a visual record of the social history of California is becoming increasingly evident.

Most of that era’s premier artists participated in this art movement and several of them received national acclaim for the art that they created. Notables such as Millard Sheets, Phil Dike, Emil Kosa Jr., Milford Zornes and Rex Brandt fit into that category. Sadly, other artists included in this exhibition received little attention from the fine art community during the pre-1970s era, but are now being recognized for their important contributions to the California Scene Paintings movement. Ben Norris, John Bohnenberger, Art Riley and Preston Blair are among them.

The term California Scene Painting is used to define works that include people or evidence of humanity through the inclusion of manmade objects and structures. Automobiles, trains, barns, roadways, fences and coastline piers are among key elements that serve as markers to define works as California Scene Paintings.

The architecture, industrial design and clothing styles seen in these works capture the essence of a time gone by. When select works are exhibited together they provide unique insight into how creative people from that era perceived the world around them. It is my hope that you find these works to be artistically inspiring and intellectually engaging.

~ Guest curator, Gordon T. McClelland

Suggested Books

  • California Scene Paintings
  • American Scene Paintings
  • Emil Kosa Jr.
  • Everyday Life in California
  • Millard Sheets: The Early Years (1926-1944)

  • To see The Irvine Museum's entire collection of high-quality books, cards and prints, please visit the bookstore.


      18881 Von Karman Avenue, Suite 100
      Irvine, CA 92612
      Click here for directions

      Offices/Bookstore: (949) 476-0294
      Directions: (949) 476-2565


      Museum Open

      Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

      Museum Closed
      The museum is closed Sunday, Monday, and may be closed for major holidays. Please call ahead.

      Admission is complimentary for all visitors. Donations are gratefully accepted.

      The Irvine Museum validates parking for its visitors.


      The Irvine Museum offers a variety of tours of its exhibitions. A regularly scheduled weekly docent tour is offered every Thursday at 11:15 a.m. Visitors are welcome on this tour without an appointment. In addition, special docent tours are available to groups of ten or more on an appointment basis. Please contact Dora James, Curator of Education, to schedule your group for a tour of our current exhibition.


    • Contact us:
    • Visit our Bookstore
      We have eighteen (18) wonderful and beautifully illustrated books, DVDs and notecards published by The Irvine Museum offered for sale. Click here
    • Patrons of The Irvine Museum
      Help support our expanding outreach programs. Your contribution can make a significant difference. Join today! Click here
    • Join Our Newsletter "The Palette"