Making an Impression
The Irvine Museum has donated its entire permanent collection to UCI, which will build a premier exhibit space on campus to showcase the artwork.
James Irvine Swinden, president of The Irvine Museum, announced the transfer of the remarkable trove of California impressionist paintings – valued at about $17 million – in November.
“We are privileged to accept this gift, which not only reaffirms a long and supportive relationship between UCI and the Irvine family, but also lays a foundation for advancing UCI as a destination for people who want to understand the world and human experience through California art,” says UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman. “All collectors should know that our ambition is to become the focus for the study and appreciation of California art. After all, what better place to be the steward of this genre than a campus of the University of California?”
The Irvine Museum was founded in 1992 by UCI benefactor Joan Irvine Smith; her mother, Athalie Richardson Irvine Clarke; and her son, James Irvine Swinden. It houses famous works of art dated from about 1890 to 1940 from such legendary painters as Franz A. Bischoff, Jessie Botke, Alson S. Clark, Frank Cuprien, Armin C. Hansen, Anna Hills, Joseph Kleitsch, Paul de Longpré, Arthur Mathews, Granville Redmond, William Ritschel, Guy Rose, Donna Schuster and William Wendt.
“With this gift, UCI is receiving one of the finest collections of California impressionism of any entity in California, and perhaps the world,” says Stephen Barker, dean of the Claire Trevor School of the Arts. “A permanent collection with such depth in a single genre significantly raises the university’s profile.”
Until the campus identifies an alternative site, the artwork will continue to be displayed at the current location of The Irvine Museum, near John Wayne Airport. Tours of the exhibitions will remain free and open to the public. Jean Stern, who has served as executive director since the museum’s founding, will stay on with the new museum.
“We are so pleased to contribute to the original vision for the campus outlined by its architect, William Pereira, which included an art museum,” Swinden says. “Our collection has attracted art lovers to more than 70 exhibitions since the museum opened 24 years ago, and it will provide the basis for a world-class museum that others who appreciate this important genre can support.”