Brandt Papers Added to College Archives

The daughters of California School artists Rex Brandt (1914-2000) and Joan Irving Brandt (1916-1995) donated their parents’ correspondence, photographs and publications to the Laguna College of Art & Design library, the college announced this week.

Rex Brandt, along with Phil Dike (1906-1990), taught workshops by what was then called the Laguna Beach School of Art in its first two years offering classes, 1962 and 1963. Brandt was also involved in designing the first two studios built on the festival grounds for the professional art institute that became LCAD. He also later served on the advisory board for the school and its endowment fund campaign in 1978, the college said in a statement.

The Brandt Papers, amounting to 15 lineal feet, will serve as a resource for current students, faculty and the community and is the college’s first archive collection donation, the college librarian said.

“We are thrilled to have his works close to the area he loved so much, and we hope that something in his papers will inspire others in their artistic endeavors,” said Shelley Walker, who with her sister, Joan Scarboro, donated the collection.

Brandt’s travel sketchbooks already proved illuminating to a group of students who traveled to Ireland and England this summer, said Betty Shelton, fine arts professor and study abroad director. “To have the opportunity to observe the actual artwork was so beneficial, and set a high standard for the group to emulate. These drawings and watercolors are an invaluable teaching aid and a treasure to Laguna College.”

LCAD library director Jennifer Martinez Wormser said about two-thirds of the Brandt Papers have been processed and will be available for research onsite in the newly renovated library at the main campus. The library is open to the public, but does not permit public lending. “The collection will not be appraised for insurance or tax purposes until this fall,” she said.

The collection encompasses a chronological record of Brandt’s entire body of work, including paintings that have been lost or destroyed along with family photographs and correspondence.

Brandt kept meticulous chronological records of his work on 3 x 5 index cards, filled with written descriptions such as the size and price along with a photograph of a given painting.

The collection also includes family photographs and correspondence with Phil Dike and Laguna artist Paul Darrow.

“The papers are the first of their kind for the college. It’s an area in which we would like to grow to set us apart from other art and design schools,” said Wormser, eager to share digital replicas of the trove with colleagues of the Art Librarian Society of North America, museum curators and historians.

Larger artists records of this nature can be found at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Smithsonian Archives of American Art.

“The Rex Brandt archives is a treasure trove of personal information focused on one of California’s finest mid century watercolor artists. It also provides engaging information pertaining to mid-century California art in general and some specific information regarding watercolor society exhibitions and other artists Brandt was affiliated with,” said Gordon T. McClelland, author of several books on the California School and California artists.

Rexford Elson Brandt, a 1936 Cal Berkeley graduate, taught at Riverside Community College, what was the Chouinard Art Institute now known as Cal Arts, and at his Blue Sky Studio in Corona del Mar.

Renowned for his watercolor paintings of the Southern California coast, Brandt wrote numerous books on technique and served as president of the California Water Color Society in the late 1940s. Along with his contemporaries Phil Dike, Emil Kosa, Jr., Barse Miller, Phil Paradise, George Post, Millard Sheets, Robert E. Wood and Milford Zornes, Brandt was known as a member of what has been variously called the California School, the White Paper Painters and the California Regionalists.

Brandt and Phil Dike operated the Brandt-Dike Summer School of Painting beginning in the late 1940s, later variously named the Rex Brandt Summer School and the Brandt Painting Workshop.

Brandt’s wife, Joan Mallock Irving, taught in the Brandt-Dike Summer School of Painting and was co-director of the Brandt Painting Workshop after 1973. She was a founding director of the Newport Harbor Art Museum, founding chairman of the Newport Beach Arts Commission, a life fellow of the American Watercolor Society and a life member of the Royal Society of Art.

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