California Scene Paintings capture the regional spirit of the Golden State by illustrating epic landscapes and expressive genre scenes that depict narratives of people’s everyday lives. The genre, which arose in the early 1900s, went through a golden age in the 1930s, when it documented the catalysts of cultural change of the time: the aftermath of the Great Depression, the industrial development of the state in the years leading up to World War II, and the growth of Hollywood, which lured many outstanding artists to California to work in the fields of motion pictures and animation.
Born out of a larger national movement called American Regionalism or the American Scene style, California Scene painters sought to create representational art based on what they saw and felt. Their movement developed with changes in the American way of life, and documented the expansion of the agricultural, railway, automotive, military, entertainment and tourist industries. Because California has always been a beacon and melting pot of diverse cultures and peoples, the California Scene movement almost from its beginning has included many works both created by and depicting Latino Americans, African Americans and Asian Americans, among others.
Indeed, the California Scene movement is a visual journey through California history: the transformation of California from a wild, untamed Western landscape of rolling hills and vast empty coastlines into an urban industrial panorama, dotted with skyscrapers and New Deal mural projects, and finally into its modern economy based on entertainment, agriculture, international trade, Silicon Valley industries and tourism. California Scene painting, spanning the 20th century, has always been about depicting and embracing new developments in culture and lifestyle. Today, it affirms an emotional connection between the California landscape and its inhabitants, as it tells the stories of everyday people in a changing world.