Four images by Modernist photographer Paul Outerbridge related to the Festival of Arts’ early years add another sliver of history to the Festival’s permanent collection as a result of a gift by the Laguna Art Museum.
The four photographs, all from 1950–51, have recently been identified as relating to the Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters. One photograph is a portrait of artist and Festival of Arts’ founder Roy Ropp in his studio. The three others are of posed pictures from the 1950 Pageant of the Masters, the annual production of tableaux vivants, or “living pictures,” re-creations of works of art with real people posing to look like their counterparts in the original pieces.
The photos also represent a link to a controversial chapter in the museum’s own history, when its 93-piece Outerbridge collection was de-accessioned and 29 pieces were sold at auction for $971,000 in 1996, a consequence of a short-lived merger with what is now the Orange County Museum of Art. In 2004, the remaining unsold Outerbridge works were transferred by OCMA to Laguna Art Museum and are not currently held as part of its collection, Laguna’s curator of collections, Janet Blake, said this week.
Paul Outerbridge, a designer and illustrator in New York, turned to photography in the 1920s. His work appeared in magazines such as Vanity Fair as well as in fine photography exhibitions including the Smithsonian Institution. A pioneer in color photography, he spent his final 15 years in Laguna Beach, where he opened a studio and exhibited in the Festival of Arts four times between 1949 and 1957. Outerbridge was celebrated for his ability to transform commonplace objects into semi-abstractions through a keen sensitivity to pattern and light, said a museum statement.
Museum executives presented the gift to Festival board members last month. “How wonderful on our 80th anniversary to receive this addition to our permanent art collection which furthers the documentation of the Festival’s history,” said President Fred Sattler.
The museum’s board approved the gift. Executive director Malcolm Warner noted that both the museum and Festival trace their heritage to the Laguna Beach Art Association, which was founded in 1918.
The gift reinforces the historic bond between our organizations,” said Tom Lamb, a Festival of Arts vice president and photo exhibitor himself.