It could be said that the beginning of all art is the human figure. As children we draw it in stick form. Archeological sites are often replete with primitive forms of the human effigy. Early Greeks and Romans established the classical standards for sculpting the human figure. The painters of the Renaissance carried the classical notion of the nude onto the painted canvas. The pre-Raphaelites of the late 1900s rejoiced in the sensuality of the human form. The cubist and surrealists stretched and strained the figure to its visual limits in the early part of the 20th Century. Americans lead by Thomas Eakins cherished the nude as the basic building block for the development of young artists.
But we are Californians. And we are different. As in so many of life's creative endeavors we see the human figure in a unique way. This exhibition has been assembled in an effort to understanding how Californians see themselves. Every one of the pieces in this exhibit has been completed by an artist who lived or worked in California. The works span nearly 150 years. The earliest image is by the artist John Middleton, an early visitor to the State, who depicted the native people of California in an engraving completed in 1858. Nearly every decade of the State's history is represented by a work of art in this exhibit. Fifteen contemporary artists have their work included in the exhibition. A special wall in the gallery is reserved for five bold Santa Barbarans who allowed themselves to serve as models for nude portraits by the well-known contemporary portraitist Jack Smith.
The exhibit includes oil paintings, mixed media protraits, watercolors, etchings and drawings.