Los Angeles

“California Pictorial 1800–1900”

Santa Barbara Museum of Art

This ex­hibit consists of two separate exhibi­tions: the paintings of the nineteenth century California artist William Keith (1838–1911), and the Robert B. Honey­man, Jr. collection of early California art. The two exhibitions represent the Museum’s contribution to the annual Santa Barbara old Spanish days cele­bration. The value of the Honeyman collection rests almost entirely in the world of history and ethnology and per­haps to a certain degree in the realm of Folk Art. As paintings, few could very well stand on their own feet. The only marginal exceptions are two small oils by Alver Bierstadt, Lake Tahoe and Covered Wagons.

One is rather hard-pressed to explain why Keith apparently enjoyed such a widespread reputation during his life­time. Paintings of equal quality were literally produced by the car load dur­ing the last quarter of the nineteenth century. His drippingly sentimental and romantic landscapes à la Dusseldorf and the Barbizon are thin and trans­parent, both as to their content and the technical means which he employed. The basic emptiness of his style is best exemplified in his large Bierstadtesque landscapes which at best are highly embarrassing. Probably his most suc­cessful pieces in the exhibition are two small landscapes Drying Laundry and The Grazing Lea, both of which share some points in common with his contemporary Ralph Blakelock.

––David Gebhard