Baldy or From Campus Windows, woodcut, 1932, Paul Landacre  (American, 1893-1963).  Landacre, who lived in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, was one of the leading printmakers of the 20th century. Many of his subjects are Southern California landscapes, such as Mount Baldy, above. 

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The arts, literature, and identity

The Scottish-American naturalist, writer, and conservationist John Muir (1838-1914), founder of the Sierra Club, spent much time in Southern California and wrote about it in such classic books as The Mountains of California  (1894). Muir has become a California icon and is represented, along with the California condor and Half Dome in Yosemite Valley, on the California quarter-dollar issued in 2005 in the United States Mint's 50 State Quarters series.   

Malibu Coast, Spring, oil on canvas, 1929, Granville Redmond (American, 1871-1935). Redmond was prominent in the California impressionist movement.

A project will be organized on the important role that literature and the arts have played in shaping California's, and more specifically Southern California's, identity. In the meantime, here are a few representative images.


Carey McWilliams's Southern California Country: An Island on the Land  (1946) is the classic description of the region in the first half of the 20th century. McWilliams (1905-1980) was an author, lawyer, and political activist who in his later years was editor of The Nation. Known for his accounts of social injustice,  he was also eloquent on the landscape:  “I think of the view from a favorite arroyo in the late afternoon, the east slope still bathed in sunlight, the far slope already full of dark shade and lengthening shadows. A cool breeze, as one can look across the plains, out over miles of homes and trees, and hear the faraway hum of traffic on the high-ways and see the golden light filtering through the mist-laden air.”