Charles Christian Nahl, “La Plaza de Toros: Sunday Morning in Monterey,” 1874, oil on canvas, 71 x 112 inches, Santa Barbara Museum of Art

How did Mexico become California? After the U.S.-Mexican War, lands that had belonged to New Spain — and later Mexico — were transformed into the 31st state, creating visual arts with distinct pictorial motifs, symbols, and identity.

The unique visual language that developed in California between 1820 and 1930 is a beautiful story currently being told at the Laguna Art Museum. On view now through January 14, “California Mexicana: Missions to Murals, 1820-1930” features paintings along with posters, books, photographs, and some of the earliest films made in Los Angeles, demonstrating how images of California spread worldwide.

Ferdinand Deppe, “San Gabriel Mission,” circa 1832, oil on canvas, 27 x 37 inches, Laguna Art Museum

“The selection ranges from picturesque landscapes of Alta California and still life paintings of fruits and flowers that celebrated the state’s agricultural growth, to works by modernists such as Diego Rivera who were inspired by the art of ancient Mexico,” the museum suggests. “‘California Mexicana’ reveals how a unique combination of Mexican and Anglo visual traditions created a profile for California distinct from any other U.S. State.”

The show includes over 100 artworks on loan from museums across the United States and Mexico. To learn more, visit the Laguna Art Museum.

This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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