Edgar Alwin Payne, Rockbound, 1921, Oil on canvas. Gift of the Class of 1921.


Collecting the Art of California

at Gardena High School, 1919-1956

September 17 – November 12, 2022

Opening Reception: September 24, 6 – 9pm

Palos Verdes Art Center / Beverly G. Alpay Center for Arts Education is pleased to announce GIFTED: Collecting the Art of California at Gardena High School, 1919-1956, organized by the GHS Art Collection, Inc. in association with the Gardena High School Student Body and curated by Susan M. Anderson. The exhibition featuring 50 paintings will open at Palos Verdes Art Center September 17, followed by a public reception, September 24 from 6 to 9pm. Docent tours will be available Tuesdays and Saturdays during the run of the show, from 10am to noon and by appointment. Contact Gail Phinney, Community Engagement Director, at gphinney@pvartcenter.org to schedule an appointment.

The exhibition and accompanying catalogue chronicle the history of the school’s ambitious endeavor within the context of the wider cultural scene in Los Angeles, revealing that a broader public than was previously known—one driven by educational rather than economic values—participated in the development of Southern California art.

From 1919 to 1956, students in the senior class selected, purchased, and donated some seventy-two works of art to the high school as class gifts. Over the years, artists, the federal art projects, and other individuals and organizations also made many gifts of art to the collection. In 1923 Gardena High School designed a new auditorium to house the permanent collection, establishing the first public art gallery in Southern California with a collection of regional art. Since the mid-1950s, the collection has been in storage and unavailable for viewing by the public. The exhibition GIFTED: Collecting the Art of California at Gardena High School, 1919- 1956 was originally exhibited at the Hilbert Museum of California Art in 2019. This presentation of GIFTED is the first for Los Angeles County, where Gardena High School is located. PVAC is thankful to the organizers for sharing this important exhibition with our community.

Maurice Braun, California Hills, 1924, Oil on canvas. Gift of the Class of 1929.

Gardena High School established the collection when plein-air painting flourished in Southern California, setting the tone for the high school’s collecting emphasis during the following decades. The high level of sophistication demonstrated by the students’ choices was the result of the aesthetic discourse and collaboration nurtured by the school. Most works selected prior to World War II were plein-air landscapes, evidence of regional artists’ fascination with the area’s natural beauty and art currents popular at the time. The GHSAC includes works by prominent painters of California Impressionism, including William Wendt, Edgar Payne, Hanson Duvall Puthuff, Jean Mannheim, Franz Bischoff, Maurice Braun, Alson Clark, Agnes Pelton, and Marion Wachtel among others. Later works by Loren Barton, Maynard Dixon, and Emil Kosa reflect the influence of the American Scene movement popular during the Depression era as well as the dramatic shifts in style characteristic of the art of the post-war period.

Accompanying the exhibition is the catalogue, GIFTED: Collecting the Art of California at Gardena High School, 1919-1956, a 216-page, color-illustrated publication by California art scholar Susan M. Anderson, former curator of Laguna Art Museum. The exhibition catalogue, co-published with the former Pasadena Museum of California Art and designed by Garland Kirkpatrick, is the definitive study of the history and importance of the collection within a regional and national context.

Elanor Ruth Eaton Gump Colburn, Gold—The New Era, 1934, Oil on canvas. Gift of the Class of 1936.

This exhibition is made possible, in part, by generous support from-