The Irvine Museum is known for its splendid collection of California landscapes and a selection of its paintings is now being shown at Laguna College of Art & Design in a wide-ranging exhibit, "Masterpieces from Irvine Museum," that has a surprisingly historic aspect.
The Irvine Museum, founded in 1992 by Laguna resident Joan Irvine Smith and her late mother, Athalie R. Clarke, is "the only museum in California dedicated to the preservation and display of California Impressionism or Plein-Air paintings, an art style that flourished in California from 1890 to 1930," according to the museum's website.
Plein-Air painting flourished during the years when California was being discovered and developed, and painting the natural beauty of the state was especially embraced by those artists who called themselves Impressionists, according to Dora James, the Irvine Museum's curator of education.
"Impressionism started in France in the 1860s and came to California in the 1890s," James said. "Artists came here from Chicago and the Midwest because the light of California was similar to the light in the south of France."