First California impressionist painting exhibition with Catalina focus announced

Pictured above is “Avalon, Santa Catalina Island, 1889” by artist. Ernest Narjot (1826-1898). Loan to Catalina Island Museum courtesy of Dr. Oscar and Trudy Lemer. Courtesy artwork

The Catalina Island Museum’s winter exhibition When Sugar Loaf Stood: Early Catalina Paintings, will open to the public on Sunday, Oct. 7. The exhibition brings together paintings by more than a dozen distinguished artists of the California Impressionist period. A celebratory Members and Exhibition Lenders Reception will be held on October 27, 2018.

Until its complete destruction in 1929 Sugar Loaf Rock was the defining geologic feature of Catalina Island’s tranquil Avalon Bay. Gracing the northern most point of the bay, the conical rock ascended more than 50 feet into the air and served as a marker for navigation and as a place of interest and exploration for island visitors. The human manipulation of Avalon Bay’s natural landscape parallels two vital periods in history: the development of Catalina Island into a resort destination and the California Impressionist art movement.

The vision of the Banning Family, who purchased Catalina Island in 1892, was to create a vacationland that would appeal to wealthy tourists. The Banning’s timing was good as California appealed to travelers’ desires to experience the scenic West, and especially the state’s warm weather which touted health related benefits. California – Southern California in particular – also enticed artists from across the country to relocate. The clime permitted painting out of doors, or en plein air. Capturing the impression of California’s landscapes bathed in light became the core of the California Impressionist movement.

While Catalina Island’s pristine land and seascapes are the predominant subject matter of the exhibition, several paintings show the rapid growth of Avalon from a nearly uninhabited settlement on the bay to a resort filled with grand hotels, ample activities including swimming, boating, dancing and hiking, and new attractions including a funicular, an aquarium, stage coach rides and more. The paintings in the exhibition coincide with the purchase of the island by the Banning family, Avalon’s incorporation as a city in 1913, the fire of 1915 which nearly destroyed all of Avalon, the removal of a large portion of Sugar Loaf Point for a dancing pavilion, and the last years of Sugar Loaf Rock which was removed in 1929 by the island’s next owner William Wrigley Jr. in order to make way for the iconic Avalon Casino.

When Sugar Loaf Stood includes works of art by the artists who defined the California Impressionist period including William Wendt, Edgar Payne, William Lees Judson, Ernest Narjot, Granville Redmond, Marion Kavanagh Wachtel, Elmer Wachtel, William P. Silva, Frank Cuprien, Joseph Greenbaum, Franz Bischoff, Frank Tenney Johnson and Joe Duncan Gleason. Additional works by E. Brascholz and George Henry Clements, Dewitt Clinton Lockwood, Howard Henry Mowbray, and M.B. Settlemyer are included.

An exhibition such as this could not have been possible at any other time in the museum’s history. The new Ada Blanche Wrigley Schreiner Building in the heart of Avalon allows for space to bring together a collection of this caliber for the first time. “It is a dream come true to be able to show these important works of art and the impression Catalina made on visiting artists of the time period,” said Catalina Island Museum Executive Director Julie Perlin Lee. “It is also a fascinating look at how artists looked at and felt about the natural and social developments on the island during this era. This time period is of particular interest as Catalina Island approaches the 100-year mark since the 1919 transfer of the island’s ownership from the Banning family to William Wrigley Jr.”

When Sugar Loaf Stood: Early Catalina Paintings opens to the public on Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018, and will run through Jan. 27, 2019. Admission to the museum is $17 for adults and $15 for seniors, military and students with a valid I.D. Members of the museum enjoy free admission every day. Children, age 15 and under, receive free admission with the purchase of an adult ticket.

Members and exhibition

;enders reception

Members of the museum along with the lenders to this exhibition and the upcoming Bird Park: An Aviary for Avalon’s Celebrity Birds exhibition are invited to a special reception at the museum on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018 from 6 to 8 p.m. This evening wine reception will feature music, an art activity and more. A special pre-reception gathering at 5 p.m. is offered to the museum’s Patrons Society members and will feature a hosted bar, light hors d’oeuvres and a chance to mingle with the lenders of both exhibitions. For more information and to RSVP, contact the museum’s Development Coordinator Stephen Weber at 310-510-4650 or


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