Editor's note: The following texts were rekeyed and reprinted on May 23, 2005 in Resource Library with permission of the California Art Gallery. The texts were excerpted from the 23-page illustrated catalogue Leon Amyx: Painter of the Salinas Valley, published by the California Art Gallery. Images accompanying the texts in the catalogue were not reproduced with this reprinting. If you have questions or comments regarding the texts, or if you are interested in obtaining a copy of the catalogue, please contact the California Art Gallery at either this web address or phone number:



 

Leon Amyx (1908-1995): Painter of the Salinas Valley

Catalogue Introduction by Susan M. Anderson

Biography by Chet Amyx and Sandy Hunter

 



 

Introduction by Susan M. Anderson

Art critics and historians of American art have tended to describe the art world of the Depression era as an antagonistic battleground between American Scene painting, which they saw as a conservative development, and more forward-looking modernist trends. Artists across the country were in fact experimenting simultaneously with a variety of themes and styles, and the boundaries separating one from another were in constant flux. All can be seen now in retrospect as trends in American modernism.

For the most part, American Scene painters sought to describe contemporary American experience in a manner that could be easily understood by the average person. They made genre paintings and rural landscapes that reflected an awareness of the difficult social realities of the times. Perhaps even in works in which social awareness is not immediately recognizable there is a subtle subtext. The somber loneliness of the natural and urban landscape symbolized an aching for greater certainty in a world that was rapidly changing and sometimes nearly unrecognizable.

Many of the American Scene painters based in California were especially adept at watercolor. They made vigorous paintings outdoors in one sitting that were raw and spontaneous reflections of their love of the Western landscape. Unbridled emotion and a passion for what could be called the American Dream is inherent to these paintings as well. Such underlying messages still resonate today and lend these historically important works lasting poignancy.

 

Biography by Chet Amyx and Sandy Hunter

"I am aware that 1 am an incurable romantic. The things that count the most are light, space, air, running water, the sound of crickets
and coyotes at night -- all things close to nature. Even in contemplating an abstract or semi-abstract composition, these are the motivating elements."
-- Leon Amyx

Leon Amyx's paintings rarely embarked on social or political themes. Rather, he concentrated on the farm landscapes of the Salinas Valley. He showed the parallel and close relationship between the land and the people who worked it. This catalog documents many of these farm scenes, which are rapidly disappearing from view.

The work of Amyx during the 1930s and 1940s was quite similar to the artists painting in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay area. Working quickly on location in watercolor his work exudes a beautiful feeling of outdoors flooded with sunlight. The viewer is aware of a spontaneous capturing of a past moment in time. By the end of the '40s Amyx's work took a compelling change. Strokes are more geometric and forms are more schematic, as his earlier study of the methods and compositions of Cezanne emerge. Areas of the white ground of the paper emerge to emphasize the spatial relationship between objects.

Among the many excellent teachers with whom Amyx studied was the very influential Millard Sheets. After formal studies he continued to work privately with Lee Randolph in Carmel and Clarence Hinkle in Santa Barbara. Hinkle became a very good friend throughout the years.

Amyx was a dedicated painter and teacher. He taught at Hartnell College for 36 years. Many of his students went on to become well known artists: painters, Wayne Thiebaud and Ralph Goings, and cartoonist, Eldon Dedini to name a few.

Amyx had over 38 one-man shows and participated in numerous group exhibitions. He was a member of the National Watercolor Society, the San Francisco Art Institute, and the Carmel Art Association. His paintings are held in several important art collections, including the Monterey Museum of Art, the Tanimura and Antle Collection, the Buck Collection, the Hunter Collection and numerous other private collections.

There is no other early California Scene artist who painted and recorded the Salinas Valley quite like Leon Amyx. He has given the viewer an honest glimpse into a by-gone era.

 

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