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Current Exhibition:

Dusk till Dawn

May 27 - Sept 28, 2017

Landscape with Indians
by Virgil Williams
o/c 18" x 30"
The Irvine Museum Collection
at the University of California, Irvine

Inner Harbor Landscape with Indians moonlight marsh

Click on an image to see a larger view

The Irvine Museum Collection at the University of California, Irvine presents “Dusk till Dawn,”an exhibition that goes against the grain of what we typically think of as landscape painting. Usually, an artist will paint a beautiful landscape bursting in bright sunlight with colorful trees and flowers, things one would expect to see during the day. This exhibition is different as the paintings on display show those same subjects but at night or at the outer edges of the day, when the sun is setting or when it is rising.

Painting at night presents a serious problem. How does the artist paint the absence of light without creating a painting that is so dark that very little can be discerned? In centuries past, the artistic convention was to paint shadows dark brown, so a night scene was treated as a gigantic shadow and the entire painting was dark brown. With the advent of French Impressionism, artists recognized that within a shadow, there was clarity and one could see lots of color. To meet this concept, they settled on blue or purple to best represent shadow, as it conveys coolness and it is the direct opposite of the yellow in sunlight.

Working in the 1870s, James McNeill Whistler was among the first artists to paint blue night scenes, which he called “nocturnes.” In 1889, Vincent van Gogh painted “Starry Night” in multiple tones of blue. In America, many artists were painting blue night scenes, including Frederic Remington, Maxfield Parrish and Frank Tenney Johnson.

Some of the paintings in “Dusk till Dawn” rely on the old method of darkening shadows, such as “Landscape with Indians” by Virgil Williams and “Sunset in Monument Valley” by James Swinnerton. In these paintings, the vivid sky effects of sunset supersede the need for clarity. Most, however, were painted by artists who were trained in Impressionism and thus use various tones of blue. Two remarkable examples are the “Nocturne” paintings by Granville Redmond.

“Inner Harbor” painted in 1929 by Paul Sample shows San Pedro Harbor aglow in the ethereal light of the full moon while “In Morning Light” by Alfred Mitchell shows the beach at La Jolla just starting to warm up early in the morning.

This display also features a number of excellent works by award-winning contemporary landscape painters.

Suggested Books

  • Selections From the Irvine Museum
  • California Light, A Century of Landscapes
  • Impressions of California
  • California, This Golden Land of Promise


    To see The Irvine Museum's entire collection of high-quality books, cards and prints, please visit the bookstore.


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      The Irvine Museum offers a variety of tours of its exhibitions. A regularly scheduled weekly docent tour is offered every Thursday at 11:15 a.m. Visitors are welcome on this tour without an appointment. In addition, special docent tours are available to groups of ten or more on an appointment basis. Please contact Dora James, Curator of Education, to schedule your group for a tour of our current exhibition.


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