On a clear day a century ago, one could see the peak of Mt. Baldy from virtually every corner of the Los Angeles basin, from ocean to desert. The original inhabitants of this area, the Tongva/Gabrielino Indians, called the mountain “Yoát,” or snow. Its siren song has drawn generations of settlers to its shadow. Since the late 19th century, prominent artists have been among those attracted to the foothills of Mt. Baldy and its neighboring peaks – and the city of Claremont, in particular. Whether it was the allure of the “great bald mountain” and its surrounding chaparral that first attracted painters and photographers to Claremont, or the opportunities provided by the birth of the schools and colleges founded to serve a rapidly growing population, a large number of distinguished visual artists settled here, greatly enriching the culture of the region and establishing early-on its prominence as an artistic haven.
First Generation traced the art history of the region, from the work of such artists as Hannah Tempest Jenkins, Emil Kosa, Jr., and William Manker to that of Millard Sheets and his circle in the 1930s. Sheets’s influence as artist and teacher extended as well to bringing artists such as Henry Lee McFee, Phil Dike, and Jean Ames to Scripps College, thereby enhancing the existing art community and assuring its lasting influence. “This exhibition includes the work of these and other artists important to Claremont’s history and reflects the conviction on which the Claremont Museum of Art is based,” said First Generation Guest Curator Steve Comba. “That Claremont’s artistic heritage is a rich and valuable resource for both present and future generations, one that deserves to be examined and celebrated.”