OPEN CASA

The E. Gene Crain Collection

On view February 7 – April 16, 2017
Free with general admission


Sparked by a love of art and fueled by close friendships with artists, Mr. E. Gene Crain has amassed a collection of remarkable quality and focus, centering on watercolors of the Southern California landscape. The E. Gene Crain Collection, started in the 1960s, now holds nearly 1,000 works.

This is the final exhibition in a three-year commitment to make the E. Gene Crain Collection available to the public.

This exhibition focuses on the works of artist Millard Sheets (1907-1989). Over twenty paintings dating from 1929 to 1984 highlight the artist’s travels around the world. Sheets had wanderlust while still a student at Chouinard School of Art in 1928. After winning several prizes for his paintings, he embarked for Europe, where he spent six months traveling, painting, and studying lithography in Paris. During the 1930s he made numerous trips to Mexico and Hawaii. He was an artist-correspondent for Life magazine during World War II, assigned to the China-Burma-India front. He developed a deep affection for the people of India and sympathy for their way of life and vowed that some day he would return.

Although Sheets spent a year-long sabbatical in Hawaii from 1950 to 1951, it was not until he was contracted by the U.S. State Department in 1960 that his world travels began in earnest. Serving as an American Art Specialist—an arts ambassador—Sheets and his wife visited the Soviet Union, Turkey, and Uzbekistan. In 1966, he began conducting painting workshops around the world. Over the next twenty years, those workshops would take him to Greece, Japan, Thailand, Nepal, Hong Kong, India, Mexico, the British Isles, Yugoslavia, Tahiti, Moorea, Fiji, New Zealand, France, Spain, Portugal, Hawaii, China, and Egypt.  In 1967, he went around the world, departing from Los Angeles to Hawaii, then to Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, India, Lebanon, Greece, and London before returning to Los Angeles. In 1984, at the age of seventy-seven, he conducted two workshops back-to-back, in India and Hong Kong, and in 1985 he would make his last trip—to Italy, Greece, and Egypt. His wife, Mary, who accompanied him on these trips, spoke of his paintings of foreign lands as colorful travelogues, documents of her “wonder-filled” life with her husband.

The selections shown at Casa Romantica are curated by Janet Blake, Manager of the E. Gene Crain Collection and Curator of Historical Art at Laguna Art Museum.

This exhibition is made possible in part by John and Barbara Hazeltine.