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Art of the American Spirit: A Practical Introduction to American and California Painting


How to Spot Real American Folk Art Paintings

European Roots

An American Style

Glossary of American Art

Things to Look For

Collecting American Art

California & Regional Paintings

About the Expert

Native American Blankets

Native American Jewelry


A Practical Introduction to American and California Painting

Art of the American Spirit: A Practical Introduction to American and California Painting


One exciting thing, for those of us who study American art, is exploring the rich variety of regional painting that has developed in different areas of the country.

My own particular interest is California painting. Being in Los Angeles, I've been able to take a closer look at the many great painters who have lived and worked in California, and at Butterfields we have developed an expertise in what is now a fast-growing investment market. While most of what we now call California painting dates from about 1850 to 1950, it's not unusual to find paintings in some of my auctions that were done by living artists just six months ago.

California has long been a magnet for artists, drawn both by the state's awesome physical landscape and its balmy weather. Generally Impressionist in style, California painting really began to thrive in the early part of the 20th Century with the growth of tourism. Well-heeled visitors from New York and Chicago were eager to take a little bit of California back home with them, and California art thus found its way into collections across the country.

Landscape painters such as Thomas Hill became famous for views of Yosemite National Park, while Granville Redmond specialized in Impressionist scenes of fields full of poppies and lupines. In southern California, artists such as Armin Hansen and Maynard Dixon captured the unique beauty of the region's sparkling landscapes, painting frequently in the "plein air" tradition, where the artist completes the work outdoors, free of the confines of the studio.

But if California art does not appeal to you, there are still plenty of other areas of American art to explore. Black American artists, for example, are clearly a major force. Early black painters range from Robert Scott Duncanson, who was part of the Hudson River school, to Grafton Tyler Brown, who specialized in views of western towns. In the 20th Century, black artists were an integral part of the Harlem Renaissance from about 1916-1940, helping to sow the seeds of the Civil Rights movement and celebrating the unique blend of jazz culture, black tradition, and high living that came to symbolize Harlem at the time.

Scot Levitt, Director of American and California Paintings, Butterfields


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