Category: Art

Ben Messick, artist


Watercolor sketch for a later oil painting: Main Street Cafe Society, 1939.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art description (from the link below):

A man shares a newspaper with a faceless woman while an elderly gentleman hungrily slurps his soup in a sparsely furnished restaurant. Main Street Cafe Society is painted in a palette of earth tones. Color was essential to Messick for conveying the mood of his scenes, and he usually selected a restricted color scheme for each painting. While the browns and beiges of this painting bespeak a poor and spare life, the overall pink cast of the palette suggests a positive, almost rosy attitude toward it. Messick also believed a good composition should move rhythmically, and in Main Street Cafe Society the viewer proceeds through the scene by means of fluid lines and alternating areas of light and dark.

“Ben Messick (1901-1981) Born: Strafford, MO; Studied: Chouinard Art Institute (Los Angeles); Member: California Art Club… By the mid-1930s, he had developed his own style of painting and became known as one of the West Coast’s key Regionalist artists. While Messick was an extremely competent watercolorist, these works were not exhibited frequently and did not receive the attention given to his oils on canvas.”

Image and excerpts from .


Guardian of Water


Image: statue located in front of the San Diego County Administration Center from .

“‘The “Guardian of Water’ is a granite sculpture, with a mosaic and frieze around the base. It was created by Donal Hord in 1939, with support from the WPA.

“The sculpture is a 23′ high figure of a woman holding an olla on her left shoulder, symbolizing the need for water conservation in southern California. She is surrounding by a mosaic of kneeling nudes- symbolizing clouds- pouring water from jars over a dam into a citrus-fruit orchard.”

Excerpt from .

California modernism art


Image: The Parting by Hans Burkhardt from
Other Burkhardt art and a bio at the link.

“In 1939, Hans Burkhardt held his first one-man show at the Stendhal Gallery in Los Angeles, set up by the artist Lorser Feitelson. After his move out West, Burkhardt never returned permanently to New York and would no longer be recognized by the East Coast.”
Excerpt from .


On the Edge of America: California Modernist Art, 1900-1950, a 1996 exhibit in West Hollywood and an accompanying book.

“Two works that are showcased in both the show and the book are Hans Burkhardt’s The Parting (1939) and War, Agony in Death (1939-40). These two anti-war paintings are for Burkhardt what Guernica was for Picasso. They are overwhelming works that display an uncanny prescience of World War II’s impact as well as a full panoply of modernist, painterly techniques. Wisely, they are hung side-by-side so that they form a heart-wrenching narrative. In The Parting a father figure bids adieu to his grief torn family, whose world is being turned upside-down. Loss and nostalgic yearning pervade the image. In War, Agony and Death the father figure has been transformed into a monstrous blood-drenched machine of death that faces a strife-torn landscape of countless crosses. In the upper left corner the same family group of The Parting appears, overlooking the universal devastation.”

Excerpt from .



Mural painted out


Image (right): August 30, 1939 in the Fullerton News-Tribune article via .

Image (left): Text from 1934 newspaper caption: Marie Hardy, Fullerton High School student, admires a portion of the recently finished mural along the patio of the last building. The mural and the new stadium on the school grounds were dedicated with elaborate ceremonies yesterday and Thursday. The entire city joined in the celebration yesterday afternoon [Los Angeles Times, “Fullerton Joins in High School Jubilee,” 11/24/1934]., Access to this collection is generously supported by Arcadia funds. WPA (Works Progress Administration) commission during the 1930s depicting Mexican laborers and the county’s California pioneers. It was whitewashed in 1939, Text from negative sleeve: California, Fullerton, Schools, -117.920592 via .

“The decision to paint over this mural probably had to do with its subject matter. It celebrated Mexican culture at a time of great racism against Mexicans, and when Mexicans were being forcefully and illegally deported back to Mexico, because white people needed their jobs, during the Great Depression.”

Excerpt from . See images of the mural and the story behind it at the link.

George Washington and the cherry tree

Parson Weems' Fable

image: Parson Weems’ Fable, 1939. Grant Woods (American, (1891-1942). Oil on canvas. Collection of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

Artist Grant Woods’ painting shows an adult Washington recalling the famous incident from his childhood. The title comes from the name of the author who wrote the story in an 1800 book — told to him by a Washington relative.

Find out more here: .