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REMEMBERING EDAN MILTON HUGHES

11   8   2016






Edan Milton Hughes wrote the definitive encyclopedia of California Artists from 1786 to 1940. Though in his own words he declared that the book could not be ever considered definitive because of new information collected every day and just the sheer size of that information. Well he tackled it his whole life time.

He spoke sometimes directly to the artists themselves and their family members. By the time he was done he had amassed some 20,000 artists who passed through California. His legacy continues to drive California Art Historians, galleries and museums who work with his data on a daily basis. Artists in California, in its third edition, is the most comprehensive volume.

Edan is a California treasure. He fell in love with California and it's artists and became an art dealer with more knowledge than the average dealer. He was the quintessential art historian. His book is one of the most important if not the most important book on Pre-War California art. It reads like a list. With important data constructed for each artist.

He states in the beginning of the book, that even though an artist may only have a sentence of two written about them, it doesn't mean that those artists are not important. It just means simply they didn't make giant footprints in California. However, those artists still were noted as working or showing in the golden state. If you are a lover of art, a dealer or collector than this book is a must. I simply don't go anywhere without my copy.

I might be rummaging thru some thrift store finds and come across an artist I am not familiar with. Well, I take out my trusty Hughes reference book and lo and behold, all the information is laid out in alphabetical order. Easy to find all the information, simple and direct. He also abbreviates the institutions related to the artist. For instance, CHS stands for the California Historical Society. It is as simple as that.

Even tackling the time starting from as early as 1786 was daunting as there was little information on those early artists who accompanied the first European explorers. Those artists painted or sketched simple surveys of the land. However for historians, museums and collectors, that period has quite an attraction. Those early artists painted pictures of what life was like when the first explorers came to California. We have pictures of Flora, maps, coastal region prior to modern construction, untamed valleys and armies of conquistadors standing near the shores edge. Hughes states the first professional artist was Gaspard Duche de Vancy followed by Thomas de Suria and Jose Cardero from Spain.

The amount of quality reference material in Artists In California is superb. Even if your just a person discovering art for the first time this book can be quite valuable to your research. Sadly in April of 2015 Edan passed away. He is gone but he passes on to others the life long research he did on that subject.

The Crocker Museum in Sacramento worked with Edan for much of his life as well as the Laguna Beach Art Museum, which launched several exhibitions based on Hughes' comprehensive data. Without Edan's work I doubt we would have the information we have today in California. He was the Tacitus of his day. Some of the bios of the artists online came directly from Edan. Researching by any means necessary to find more about the artists in his giant of a book which both inspires and teaches us about this vast subject. Thank you Edan for your contribution and life achievement dedicated to California Art.

BY JIM KAPSALIS

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