Preserving the Legacy of Historical California Art
The mission of the Historical Collections Council of California Art is to promote, develop, and maintain an appreciation of historical California art. Founded in 1985, the HCC, a 501 (C) tax-free status, nonprofit organization, provides an ongoing opportunity for its members and the community to experience and learn about early California art. Members visit important art collections, both private and public, attend educational lectures, curated exhibitions, and enjoy social events with fellow art lovers.
Through our membership, the HCC has provided grants to non-profit institutions with a variety of requests, such as the underwriting of catalogues and publications, the purchase and conservation of paintings, busing programs for children, and grants to help fund exhibitions. Some of our beneficiaries have been The Irvine Museum, Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, the Bowers Museum, the Hilbert Museum of California Art, the Laguna Art Museum, the Oceanside Museum, the Grace Hudson Museum in Ukiah, the Santa Monica Historical Society, the California Museum of Art Thousand Oaks (CMATO), the Palos Verdes Art Center, Casa Romantica, and the Gardena High School Collection.
This website is intended to be a resource for both HCC members and non-members. Please enjoy the website and consider becoming a Member.
The History of the Historical Collections Council of California Art
During the 1980’s, the historical California art from the early twentieth century enjoyed a reawakening of interest among art collectors and art aficionados. Fueled by several major exhibitions and their catalogs, a series of books focusing on the impressionist artists of early California, an upsurge of availability of fresh art from art dealers and at auctions, and perhaps a bit of nostalgia, a new group of collectors discovered these respected yet somewhat forgotten artists and their art and legacies.
One of several early galleries that specialized in the resurgence of California impressionism, the Peterson Gallery in Beverly Hill would become a key part in the creation of our organization. With Jean Stern as gallery director and Janet Blake as an associate, it was at the forefront of the movement. Jean Stern would eventually become Executive Director of the Irvine Museum while Janet Blake would become Chief Curator at the Laguna Museum of Art. Both, along with author Ruth Westphal researched, documented, and worked to educate the public about early California art. Their efforts along with others included curating traveling exhibitions, writing and publishing about the importance and impact of the art and its significant artists, and lecturing widely to diverse audiences.
The history of the Historical Collections Council began with a lunch meeting In 1985, when a young collector, Bob Ehrlich, together with Stern and Blake met and brainstormed on ways to bring these newly passionate collectors together to exchange their knowledge and experiences, visit each other’s collections, and enjoy their shared passion for collecting historical California art. Working from their contacts, on May 21, 1985, thirty-five interested collectors met at the Peterson Gallery for the inaugural gathering of what would become the Historical Collections Council of California Art (HCC). The group organized and moved forward and early presidents included Ty Brenner, Bob Hall, and Allen Lay while Jean Stern served as an honorary advisor.
At the time, Bob Ehrlich and Bob Hall were board members of the Laguna Art Museum and the HCC became a formal part of that institution. In 1988, the Laguna Art Museum and the Newport Harbor Museum merged into a new institution, The Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA) and the HCC became a council within the new entity. Then in September 2004, the new Director of the OCMA had redefined the museum’s mission to focus solely on contemporary art which left no place for the historical California art organization. The ensuing split led to the establishment of the HCC as an independent, incorporated 501 (C) and an informal affiliation with the Irvine Museum, the pre-eminent institution featuring California’s early art at the time.
The organization’s early years saw the HCC financially support a number of seminal projects and exhibitions that helped grow the interest in historical California Art. The group’s first major project was in 1986 with Janet Blake's publication, "Early Artists in Laguna Beach--The Impressionists." The accompanying catalog was planned to be printed in black & white and the Historical Collections Council encouraged and funded color printing so that the reproduced paintings could be seen in their full glory.
In 1990, the HCC and many of its members including Peter Ochs, contributed heavily to the exhibition success of Dr. Patricia Trenton and Dr. William Gerdts collaboration "California Light, 1900-1930" which was the first early California traveling exhibition. Opening at the Crocker Museum in Sacramento and traveling widely, the show proved to be a great success and generated further interest in the genre.
In the years since and through the dedicated leadership of founder Bob Ehrlich, the HCC has provided grants and donations supporting the awareness and exposure of historical California art through a number of exhibitions, catalogs, monographs, publications, documentaries, educational programs and lectures, as well as the selective restoration and framing of important pieces of California art history. Today the HCC continues to fund worthwhile projects supporting the historical legacy of the California art scene and enjoys a thriving membership who share their interest in California’s historical art with visits to private collections, curated museum tours, and a wide range of educational and social opportunities.