While in California Ruth and I spent time in Orange County where Disneyland is. We had occasion to visit the campus of UC Irvine where the free-for-now Jack & Shanaz Institute & Museum of California is. It has big expansion plans and plenty of competition in a place with many notable museums. We are big fans of the 2 Getty museums in LA and Malibu but due to COVID and fate you now need a confirmed entry ticket to visit both of them. Entry was unavailable the day we wanted to go, and the very fine Norton Simon Museum was closed, so we were looking for a new attraction. Orange County has several, so we ended up sampling the UC Irvine museum that specializes only in California art making it unique and it’s currently free
The UC Irvine news on the internet says that a location has been chosen for a new museum of purely California art but the museum that will offer the Langson collection of Impressionism and contemporary California art and other works will not always be there because it will move even though an architect still has not been chosen. The new museum will not begin building until at least next year, and UC Irvine is pretty much focused for now on other construction projects and its work as an arts and medical facility. This new museum promises to be a source for Californians to get in touch with the beauty of their state in a state-of-the-art facility that it’s promising a new museum soon on this campus. “This new museum may or may not be free like the current one, but the benefactors want this new museum to be in the top 10% in this country for fine art. This probably means a fee for admittance will be coming. No other museum in this part of the country has only California art featured, and the cost associated with a new museum on campus probably means an entry fee.
I asked the only person there that day which artists currently featured have developed a somewhat national reputation, and she took me over to see an example of California art from its current show and promoted its artist as one having an expanded reputation. I had never heard of the artist. This was true of all of the art that I could see, and I could not photograph some of the works available because that was forbidden. I had to assume that no artist from this state in the current works shown has created a national reputation despite the beauty of this formidable state. But then I learned that an artist with a national reputation named Robert Henri has visited this campus.
Robert Henri was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and died in New York City. He is an artist I do admire with a national following. Henri’s work is on exhibit in many museums in this country. His works hang in the d’ Orsay in Paris, the Tate in London, and in the main Museum in New York City’s Central Park. Robert was a purely American artist devoted to his craft and a teacher of many other artists. He will one day be recognized as a master, but that has not happened yet. Although classified as an Ashcan School artist and major portrait painter, Henri has only been identified with the Impressionists so far and does not yet have a national reputation.
Robert Henri knew Los Angeles well because of his connection to this LA school. However, he knew San Diego better. The San Diego Art association was established in 1904 and 11 years later this city opened the Panama-California Exposition in its Balboa Park. Robert Henri organized an exhibition of American art in its California Building that featured both realistic and Impressionistic art. The building used way back then still functions as a museum.
Visitors to Los Angeles will soon have access to a new attraction that Robert Henri will hopefully be a major part of. I hope his reputation prospers as a result. In any eventuality, it will surely cost more to learn about him, probably in both LA and San Diego.
The art accompanying this essay are now on display but not for much longer at UC Irvine in LA. It was an accident that Ruth & I got to see examples of this type of art while there. The purely California art works on display in the current museum, some of which are of dubious quality, will officially close on September 3, 2022. It may or not be the final exhibit at the current facility that is free.