One hundred years ago a small group of Southern California artists formed the California Water Color Society and held their first exhibition at the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art. (The spelling at the time was “Water Color” — two words — which was common usage in the 1920s.) 

The founding members were all established professional artists. Artists in the exhibition include: Marion Kavanaugh Wachtel, Phil Dike, Millard Sheets, Phil Paradise, Emil Kosa Jr., Edward Reep, Ralph Hulett, Wayne La Com, Milford Zornes and Rex Brandt among others. Their stated goal in forming the CWCS was to elevate the watercolor medium “to the dignity it enjoyed under such great cultures as those of China and Persia”. 

During the first 50 years this organization was in operation, it was known as the California Water Color Society. After 1971 when larger numbers of artists from other parts of America joined the CWCS, the board and members chose to change the society name to the National Watercolor Society. That name is used to this day to identify the society. 

This exhibition has been mounted to present select watercolors by outstanding artists who were members between 1921 and 1971, when the organization was known as the California Water Color Society. Many of the artists were either on the Board of Directors or served as jurors for society exhibitions during that fifty-year period of time.

The goal of this exhibition is to visually confirm the CWCS artists from that fifty-year period of time indeed succeeded in establishing Southern California as a center for the advancement of the watercolor medium; just as the founding members had hoped for when they formed the organization in 1921.

This exhibition was curated by Gordon T. McClelland for the Hilbert Museum of California Art at Chapman University, the originating exhibition site. The show travelled to the California Heritage Museum and will be on display from July 9 through October 30, 2022.  The Heritage Museum is open to the general public Wednesday through Sunday.  Hours are 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Admission is: General admission $5; Seniors and students $3.  Admission is free on Fridays. Museum Members and Military and their families are free.

There is free parking Wednesday through Saturday. On Sunday, the museum hosts a Farmers Market (until 2 p.m.) in its parking lot and on its expansive lawn. Parking is available in the adjacent “metered” Main Street lots and Beach parking lots. 

Located in the 1894 Historic Landmark Roy Jones House, at 2612 Main Street in Santa Monica, the California Heritage Museum is a non-profit, community organization that is committed to promoting the diversity and rich history of California’s heritage through exhibitions, lectures, publications and community events. 

The museum’s programming is funded, in part, by grants from the City of Santa Monica Cultural Affairs Department, the LLWW Foundation, Wells Fargo, The Victorian/Calamigos Ranch, Dawson Design, as well as generous corporate, foundation and private individual donations. 

View the museum’s ON-LINE VIRTUAL EXHIBITION Program by visiting:

Submitted by Tobi Smith