Strong was born in Corvallis, Oregon in 1905. While he attended high school, Strong began painting plein air with Clyde Keller of Portland. Realizing his passion for art, Strong enrolled first in the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco (now the San Francisco Fine Arts Institute). Strong then went to New York, and studied with Frank Vincent DuMond at the Art Students League.
In the early 1930s, Strong returned to San Francisco where he helped organize the Art Students League of San Francisco. There he studied and taught with Maynard Dixon (1879–1938), Frank Van Sloun (1879–1938) and George Post (1906–1997), and eventually opened an Artist’s Cooperative Gallery. During the Depression, Strong painted murals for the WPA. Some of his 1930s paintings are now in the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
In 1960, Strong and his wife Elizabeth, moved to Santa Barbara, California, for "the birds and the banks." Strong had been commissioned to paint the backgrounds to dioramas in the Bird Hall of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, as well as some paintings for local bank. Until his death in 2006, Ray Strong was recognized as one of the leaders of the preservationist painters collective, The Oak Group in Santa Barbara County.
With downtown Los Angeles seemingly sprouting a new art museum or gallery district every few months, it can be hard to remember that well before L.A. became a hotbed of art making and collecting, Santa Barbara was known as the most artistic city in the state south of San Francisco. With this new exhibit, Sullivan Goss aims to right that skewed impression and teach us to hold our heads up with pride in Santa Barbara’s profound influence on the art of our time.
CHICAGO HAS A RATHER FAMOUS ART INSTITUTE. San Francisco’s Art Institute is perhaps a little less famous, but still well known. Santa Barbara’s Art Institute is hardly known at all. Wait a minute, Santa Barbara’s Art Institute?
The school originally opened as the Santa Barbara Fine Art Center on April 3, 1967 at 2020 Alameda Padre Serra, in the building that had once housed the predecessor schools to UCSB. Founded by James Armstrong, Ray Strong, Douglass Parshall, Joseph Knowles, and John Gorham...
Exhibitions such as Sullivan Goss' current "Santa Barbara Old School," quite apart from the art entailed and hung, can serve as healthy, historical wake-up calls, disabusing the illusions we may have that the symbiotic relationship of Santa Barbara and artists – and art studies – are something new.
Nothing invigorates the mind like a good conversation, and that’s exactly what curator Jeremy Tessmer has created by pairing these two excellent shows of Tonalism. One is a historical survey of the style’s original period from 1870-1930, the other a group show of artists who reference the style today, with work ranging from traditional oil painting on canvas or board to photography and tapestry. Thanks to the way that some contemporary artists have adopted the softness, the attention to mood, and the unity of composition that characterized the original generation of Tonalist works, there’s a dialogue here that grounds the recent work in art history, and that makes the older paintings look fresh.
AN ANALYSIS OF THE ARTIST'S WORK
Ray Strong's paintings of the California and Oregon landscape are astonishing in their feeling for the rhythms of natural form. Where his first paintings from the 1930s and 1940s belong to the American Scene painting tradition, his subsequent work documents his affection for the western land. His most successful works place him in the lineage of fine American landscape painters of the twentieth century along with his friend and fellow painter, Maynard Dixon.
EDUCATION & AFFILIATIONS
1985 Co-founder, Oak Group
1965 Co-founder, Santa Barbara Art Institute, Santa Barbara, Calif.
1934 Co-founder, San Francisco Art Students League
1926 Art Students League, New York
1924 California School of Fine Arts, San Francisco (now the San Francisco Fine Arts Institute)
Boggs Colleciton, Shasta State Park, Shasta, CA
Lassen, Rainier, and White Sands National Parks
Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, CA
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA
Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Santa Barbara, CA
Turtle Bay Exploration Park, Redding, CA
RAY STRONG'S MURALS
by Gabriel Melgar
Researcher Gabriel Melgar has investigated the artist's public and private murals and dioramas for a forthcoming book on Ray Strong. Mr. Melgar has identified over 30 mural projects consisting of more than 70 painted panels across the United States from New York City to San Diego, California.
1931 "Keene Valley (NY) Parish Murals, Congressional Church", Keene Valley, NY
1934 "Skyline Boulevard Hills", Roosevelt Junior High School, San Jose, CA
1934 "Peace or War", Roosevelt Junior High School, San Jose, CA
1935 "Mt. Lassen Before Eruption, Mt. Lassen After Eruption", Lassen National Park, CA
1938 "San Gabriel County", Post Offices of San Gabriel, CA
1943 "Life Through the Ages", Children's Junior Museum of Palo Alto, Palo Alto, CA
1951 "Ideograph", College of Marine, Mill Valley, CA
1951 "Greater Kudu", Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, CA
1969 "Forces Gone Wild", Santa Barbara County Administration Building, Santa Barbara, CA
1982 "Chaparral Habitat", Santa Barbara Natural History Museum, Santa Barbara, CA
by Stephanie Kostezak
Researcher Stephanie Kostezak has investigated the artist's Solo Exhibitions for a forthcoming book on Ray Strong. The artist's first exhibition was held in 1925 at the Palo Alto Library and received a a marvelous review which is linked below. At the time of this show, the artists was just 20 years old. Ms. Kostezak has located nearly 80 solo exhibits some of which are recorded here.
1925 "Ray Strong: Sketches & Studies", Palo Alto Public Library, Palo Alto, CA
1932 "Landscapes of Keene Valley and the Upper Ausable Lake Country", Keene Valley Congregational Church, Keene Valley, NY
1936 "Ray Strong", Berkeley Women's City Club, Berkeley, CA
1940 "Ray Strong Paintings", Stanford University Art Gallery, Stanford, CA
1946 "Ray Strong: Exhibition and Sale of Paintings", Elfstrom Galleries, Salem, OR
1955 "Paintings by Ray Strong of Mill Valley", Rotunda Gallery, City of Paris, San Francisco, CA
1961 "Journey Into Violence", Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA
1975 "Ray Strong - Retrospective; 'Along the Way' 1924-1974", Los Robles Gallery, 167 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301
1985 "California Landscapes", Arlington Galleries, Santa Barbara, CA
1990 "Ray Strong: Art of the Diorama", Santa Barbara Natural History Museum Santa Barbara, CA
2003 "Ray Strong: Endurance", Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, CA
2005 "Ray Strong: 100 Years", Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, CA
2007 "Ray Strong: Hidden Treasures", Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, CA
2011 "Ray Strong: Heaven, Earth, and Everything in Between", Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, CA
2013 "Ray Strong: A Legacy in Landscape", Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, CA
2015 "Ray Strong: American Artist", Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, CA
Researchers are investigated the artist's Group Exhibitions for a forthcoming book on Ray Strong. As they are compiled some will be recorded here. The remainder will be published in the new monograph.
1929 "Exhibition by Junior Artist Members", National Arts Club, New York, NY
1934 "National Exhibition-Public Works of Art Project", Corcoran Gallery, Washington, DC
1934 "Monthly Contemporary Exhibition", Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, CA
1939 "California Art Today", Golden Gate International Exhibition, Treasure Island, CA
1948 "Elfstroms Third Anniversary Exhibition", Elfstrom Galleries, Salem, OR
1950 "Artists of Oregon, Annual Exhibition", Portland, OR
1969 "Bay Region Paintings, Scultpure & Prints by Alfred Frankenstein", Oakland Museum of Art, Oakland, CA
1982 "Roosevelt's America: New Deal Paintings from the National Museum of American Art", National Museum of Art, Washington, DC
1992 "Oasis: Santa Barbara Artists in Support of California Desert Protection", Rotunda: Senate Office Building, Washtington, DC.
2003 "The Eighth Annual Small Images Show", Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, CA
2004 "Ranchos and Rolling Hills", Marin Agricultural Land Trust, Point Reyes, CA
2004 "In Search of America: Art of the American Scene", Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, CA
2005 "Anima Mundi", Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, CA