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California on canvas ... in Sacramento.

California on canvas . . . in Sacramento

Not every pioneer came for gold. Some, carrying palette instead of pick, ventured to California for a landscape to inspire the muse. A century later, the artistic tradition they initiated remains diverse, yet colored by strong regional affinities. Sacramento's Crocker Art Museum explores that tradition in "One Hundred Years of California Landscape,' running from now through mid-July.

The show begins with the Hudson River School painters, who sought transcendence in the gilded light and gray granite of the Sierra Nevada. Albert Bierstadt is represented by oil sketches of Yosemite (c. 1871), and Thomas Hill by Sugar Loaf Peak, El Dorado County (1865) and the magisterial The Great Canyon of the Sierras, Yosemite.

A quieter side of the state is seen in later 19th century paintings. Julian Walbridge Rix' Foggy Morning in San Rafael (1881) and Jules Tavernier's Marin Sunset in Back of Petaluma (c. 1878) are muted and a little poignant in their portrayal of an unpeopled California that is gone forever.

Oil on canvas isn't the only medium represented. In photography, Eadweard Muybridge and Ansel Adams contribute scenes of Yosemite, and Carleton Watkins presents a gray view of Mendocino County's Novo Mills.

In the last three decades, California landscape painters have gained national acclaim. Richard Diebenkorn's Berkeley #66 (1956), Elmer Bischoff's Group of Houses (1961), and Wayne Thiebaud's vertiginous Civic Center (1986) all portray a Golden State dramatically different from that recorded nearly a century before.

The stately old Crocker Art Museum has its own noble history: built by Judge E.B. Crocker in 1873, it claims title to being the oldest art museum in the West. It's at 216 O Street, Sacramento; (916) 449-5423. Hours are 1 to 9 Tuesdays, 10 to 5 Wednesdays through Sundays. Admission is $2 adults, $1 ages 7 to 17.

Photo: Thomas Hill masterwork, The Great Canyon of the Sierras, Yosemite, was completed in 1871 and widely acclaimed; canvas measures 6 by 10 feet

Photo: Luminous Sugar Loaf Peak shows artist Hill applying Hudson River School techniques to California scenes
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Title Annotation:various artists; Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, California
Date:Jan 1, 1988
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