Millard Sheets was one of the biggest names in California art in the 1920s and 1930s, and his hunger for exotic scenes and world travel continue to inspire plein air painters today. The Laguna Art Museum is offering a chance to see a collection of the artist’s work this spring.
“Big Fish, Guaymas,” by Millard Sheets, 1965, watercolor, 22 x 29 7/8 in. The E. Gene Crain Collection
In an exhibition titled “Travels With Millard Sheets, 1950-1986: Paintings From the Collection of Diane and E. Gene Crain,” the museum showcases more than 20 watercolors from his wanderings. Sheets (1907-1989) was influenced by Regionalist painters and Mexican muralists, but he preferred to sincerely and cheerfully celebrate the urban scenes, California agriculture, and immigrant life he saw around him in the Los Angeles area. His palette was often vibrant and optimistic, and his scenes stylized to express the imaginative interpretation of what he witnessed.
“Surf Riders, Mazatlan,” by Millard Sheets 1968, watercolor, 21 1/4 x 29 1/8 in. The E. Gene Crain Collection
The American art world had become disenchanted with representational painting by 1950, but Sheets stuck to his vision. In 1960 he was invited by the U.S. government to act as an arts ambassador to the world, and he visited the Soviet Union, Turkey, and Uzbekistan in that role. Soon he was teaching workshops all across the globe, from Tahiti, Greece, Japan, Nepal, India, Thailand, and Hong Kong to New Zealand, Egypt, Yugoslavia, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Lebanon.
“Travels With Millard Sheets” will be on view at the Laguna Art Museum from Feb. 23 through June 1. For more information, visit the venue’s website.