Art Makes History

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On Saturday, November 1, art will make history in Newport Beach as the City celebrates what would have been the 100th birthday of Rex Brandt, considered one of the most important figures in California art in the mid-20th century.

Early in the day, a plaque will be dedicated at the base of the Goldenrod Footbridge, the site of Brandt’s long-time Corona del Mar residence. This will be followed at 2 p.m. at the Central Library with a special program featuring an overview of the life and art of Brandt by Gordon McClelland, an author and art curator specializing in “California Scene Painting.”

Special guests E. Gene Crain, a close friend of Brandt, artist George James and Brandt’s daughters Joan Scarboro and Shelley Walker will provide intimate insight about Brandt and his work.

The celebration continues through December 15, with a selection of original Brandt watercolors from private collections from across the southland on display at the Central Library.

Brandt’s legacy in the art world was sealed in the 1950s as a key figure in the development of California Scene Painting. That term was popularized to describe early to mid-20th century representational artworks capturing the scenic history of the terrain between Los Angeles and San Francisco and paying homage to the urban and rural majesty of the West Coast.

Brandt, along with another celebrated local artist, Phil Dike, established in Brandt’s home on Goldenrod Avenue one of the most prominent watercolor schools in California, the Brandt-Dike Summer School of Painting, affectionately nicknamed “Blue Sky.” Thousands of professional and amateur artists lived and worked in the City and studied at Blue Sky.

Brandt was also very active in the City’s cultural and historical development – he is credited as a founder of the Newport Harbor Art Museum and served as an appointee to the City’s Board of Library Trustees.

While Brandt may not a household name in Newport Beach, residents and visitors alike are very familiar with what is certainly his most reproduced work, the official City Seal of Newport Beach.

Crafted at the request of City officials in 1957, it is a heraldic oeuvre of nautical elements. With an outline suggestive of a compass, a cluster of sailboats dominates the upper portion, the lower left quarter includes an albacore facing right and a smaller fish facing left and the lower right corner mimics a wave effect.

The City Seal is on prominent display in all City buildings and graces all official documents and letterhead.

In addition to the Centennial Program, on Thursday, Nov. 20 at 7 p.m. in the Friends Room of the Central Library, the City will host a free lecture titled “Visual Sensations of Light: Celebrating the Life and Work of Watercolor Artist Rex Brandt,” with guest speaker Jennifer Martinez Wormser, the Library Director at the Laguna College of Art and Design.

Bravo Newport Beach for taking advantage of a once in a hundred year opportunity to celebrate the intersection of art and history in the City of Newport Beach.

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