“Back in 1920, when citrus groves were plentiful and horsepower referred to actual horses, the dynamic scenes captured by ‘California School’ plein air watercolorists revealed a quickly changing contrast between vast rural panoramas and densely populated urban areas,” says NWS past president (2015 – 2017) Ken Goldman. “The artists who painted these historical scenes have now mostly passed away, but their legacy lives on and continues to inspire through their paintings. It is they, who in Southern California in 1920, started the California Watercolor Society (CWS), which is now called the National Watercolor Society (NWS). And it is their courageous legacy that we celebrate in the centennial exhibition, ‘NWS: The First 100 Years.’
“This exhibition acknowledges these masters’ pioneering contributions by showcasing 30 of their watercolors (all from the Hilbert Collection) alongside paintings by 81 current NWS members, which were juried by myself and fellow past president (1968 & 1982) Gerald Brommer. This centennial exhibition was originally meant to be seen live on the walls of the prestigious Hilbert Museum of California Art. However, as we all know, the current international pandemic happened and museums everywhere, including the Hilbert, had to close. So NWS pivoted to an online presentation with the Hilbert Museum’s complete support. We hope you enjoy this virtual exhibition. It is both a celebration of 100 years of past excellence and a salute to the beginning of a brand-new era for NWS.”
Here’s a sneak peek at some of the gems that will be on display.
“The First 100 Years Exhibition is a once-in-a-lifetime culmination of a century of National Watercolor Society’s mission, artists and artwork,” says Denise Willing-Booher, current NWS President. “Beginning in 1920, the California Watercolor Society (CWS) artists expressed themselves artistically in innovative ways that have influenced us for a century. Though the name has changed to National Watercolor Society, the same spirit remains constant. This exhibition is exceptional with its combination of unique juried NWS members’ paintings, alongside curated works by early CWS painters from the Hilbert Museum, that exude timeless, artistic invention. It offers an intimate glimpse of life through the eyes of artists, which is fascinating.”
Mary Platt, director of Hilbert Museum has this to say about the exhibition: “The First 100 Years. There’s a great deal of information packed into that short, descriptive title, so let’s analyze it. A hundred years! It’s an eye-blink in human history and in the grand panoply of the history of art, but in “California years” it’s a very long span. From the date of its inception in 1920 as the California Watercolor Society, this storied organization has been home to many of the finest artists in our Golden State. By the 1930s, it was a prime catalyst for the burgeoning California Scene Painting movement, which documented the waves of cultural change of the time: the Great Depression, industrial development in the state, and the growth of Hollywood, which lured many outstanding fine artists to California to work in the field of motion pictures. This is the genre and these are the artists we celebrate here at the Hilbert Museum. Although the current state of the world has made it impossible to have this centennial exhibition on display this year inside the Hilbert Museum, we hope you enjoy this virtual showing.”
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