South O.C. exhibit eyes the iconic advertising designs of a California Impressionist – Los Angeles Times

Advertisements, particularly historical ones, often reflect the desires and concerns of the consumers they were designed for. Their appeal can stay with us too, long after the goods or services they sold are relevant.

The notable 20th-century California plein air artist, Sam Hyde Harris, wa…….

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Advertisements, particularly historical ones, often reflect the desires and concerns of the consumers they were designed for. Their appeal can stay with us too, long after the goods or services they sold are relevant.

The notable 20th-century California plein air artist, Sam Hyde Harris, was said to have drawn a distinction between commercial art, completed for clients, and art he did for himself. Though widely known as an award-winning California Impressionist, Harris, who passed in 1977, was also responsible for some of the 20th century’s most influential commercial designs.

“Sam Hyde Harris, Seeing the Unusual,” presented by Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens in San Clemente, focuses primarily on his relatively unknown commercial advertising work.

“Sam Hyde Harris is probably one of the only artists whose work has not been fully rediscovered since the California Impressionists gained critical recognition in the early 1980s,” says Casa Romantica Executive Director Amy Behrens. “Winning over 100 awards in his career, this exhibition gives long-deserved attention to Harris.”

Sam Hyde Harris, c. 1945.

(Courtesy of Maurine St. Gaudens Studios)

The exhibition, curated by Maurine St. Gaudens and Joseph Morsman, includes brilliant and iconic designs Harris created from the 1920s to the 1950s for the Santa Fe, Southern Pacific and Union Pacific railroads. The exhibition includes a rare collection of Gilmore Red Lion Gasoline advertising material.

St. Gaudens points out advertisements were particularly intentional in the past, with far fewer opportunities for them to reach their audience.

“In today’s social media world, with our lives bombarded by visual messages in communicating ideas, we have a tendency to forget that in the past the ability to present commercial advertising to the masses was limited,” said St. Gaudens. “Although Harris is widely known for the fine art plein air paintings he created during the course of his long career, few people realize the extent of Harris’ work in the commercial advertising field.”

No doubt, early to mid-20th-century consumers and travelers were influenced by his designs.

“It presents a startlingly fresh context to his life and the lives of many of his contemporaries: how they made their living and how their commercial work settled the West,” said Behrens.

“Grand Canyon, Commercial Advertising for the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway Company,” c. 1930, original promotional poster, mixed medium, watercolor and tempera, on artist board by Sam Hyde Harris.

(Courtesy of Maurine St. Gaudens Studios)

More contemporary consumers might recognize his work too, though unknowingly. Harris is responsible for creating the Van de Kamp‘s Bakery windmill logo.

“Seeing the Unusual” opens on Nov. 19 from 6 to 8 p.m. and is free to the public, although reservations are recommended. The show runs through Feb. 27 and entrance to the exhibition is free with admission to Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens. Tickets are $5 for ages 13 and older and free for active duty military and children under 12.

Casa Romantica plans to host some related events, like an exclusive preview night on Nov. 18 during Casa Romantica’s Living History Night. Guests will be transported to the 1920s and are invited to experience Casa Romantica the way the Hanson family would have in 1927. Free podcast episodes featuring subjects about plein air painting are also planned and a multiweek painting class in the style of Sam Hyde Harris taught by local San Clemente-based artist and educator, Kelly Gallaher, will be offered.

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Source: https://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/entertainment/story/2021-11-09/south-o-c-exhibit-eyes-the-iconic-advertising-designs-of-a-california-impressionist

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