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Romance of the Bells: The California Missions in Art

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In 1769, Spain began colonizing California, building missions to convert the indigenous people to Catholicism. As the oldest buildings in California, the missions continue to captivate the imagination. Starting in the 1880s, artists began creating paintings and drawings of weathered adobe walls, red-tiled roofs, and tranquil arcades that shaped a romantic vision of the region’s Spanish-era past. Although reality differed from that vision, the missions did set the course of history during their 65-year heyday, establishing the roots of today’s California, from its agricultural empires of cattle and grain to its architecture, cuisine, and place names.

This exhibit presented paintings from the Irvine Museum that captured a moment in time, as some of California’s finest Impressionist artists perceived it.