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Pevious Reviews:

Honolulu Contemporary Musuem of Art


The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

jackson pollock
Jackson Pollock

Norton Simon Museum of Art

Norton Simon Museum



santa barbara museum of art
Photo panorama of the Musuem entrance by Bonnie Barrett.

For instructions on creating a panorama in Photoshop, click here

The Santa Barbara Museum of Art

Reviewed by Bonnie Barrett, MFA

Santa Barbara has so much to offer visitors, that even the most dedicated art lovers might make the mistake of overlooking one of the finest regional museums in the United States. Strong local traditions of civic and cultural pride have produced an art museum that would do credit to any city.

bronze Alexander bust roman
Photos by Mary Harrsch
Portrait Head of Alexander Roman early the 3rd century
Female Bust Indian Mathura region, 5th-6th century
Achilles and Troilos, Roman late 2nd century

Entering the Museum’s airy Ludington Court, we were surrounded by a fine collection of classical Greek and Roman sculpture including a marble Roman Hermes (Hadrianic Period, 117-138 CE) that was formerly in the legendary collection of the Earl of Lansdowne. The core of the Museum’s classical holdings were donated by industrialist Charles Ludington, an avid art collector and contemporary of J. Paul Getty. There are excellent, well-displayed examples of Egyptian, Cycladic and Babylonian art displayed in an adjacent gallery.

duez duez
Woman in grey on board ship by Ernest Ange Duez, 1873, The Artist in his Studio

I was fascinated by two paintings from the 1870s by French painters previously unknown to me. The first, a pensive woman gazing out on a turbulent sea from onboard a wooden sailing ship. The contrast between her elegant attire and the rough-hewn ship led me to muse on the nature of travel and the turbulent emotions of arrival and departure. The painter belonged to the Juste Milieu art movement, an attempt to find a middle way between academic painters and the independent art movement of Impressionism. With a bit of quick Google research, I found a photographic portrait in the Smithsonian archive of the now-obscure artist in his studio.

bretonJules Breton
The Pardon, Jules Breton, 1872, and a photoraph of the artist

The second painting, created a year earlier by Jules Breton shows an idealised Breton peasant woman entering a dark chirch on an inner journey.

Rhododendron (detail), Piet Mondrian, 1905

I enjoyed an early work by Piet Mondrian, before he gave his artistic heart to the pure abstraction of color and grid.

Many iconic painters including Thomas Eakins, Claude Monet, Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso and Georgia O’Keffe are represented by major works in the Museum's permanent collection.

Kalachakra Sand Mandala, Lobsang Samten, 1996 Photos by Mary Harrsch

The Museum has a fine Asian collection including numerous Tibeton Tankas and a rare permanent installation of a mandala created in colored sand. Sand mandalas are usually swept up and returned to a body of water. Viewing one is believed by many Tibetans to insure a fortunate rebirth.

The Santa Barbara Museum of Art is located on State Street in the heart of Santa Barbara’s downtown shopping and dining district. There is ample inexpensive parking in city-operated lots and an electric shuttle circling downtown.

The Museum has several galleries for temporary exhibitions. Currently on display are:

benjamin Karl Benjamin, F.S. #1, 1961. Oil on canvas

California Calling: Works from Santa Barbara Collections, 1948 - 2008

Part I:  July 18 - December 27, 2009
Part II:  September 12 - December 20, 2009
 Showing an eclectic collection of contemporary Californian artists. The exhibition shows the unique vitality of art from the west coast in the last 60 years.

corot Jean-Baptists-Camille Corot, View of Rome

Corot in California

July 4 – October 11, 2009
This exhibition celebrates the presence of Corot's paintings in California, with a dozen paintings drawn from private and public collections. Corot’s landscape work shows many qualities later developed by the Impressionists. His work has been popular with American collectors for over a century.

museum entrance

The Santa Barbara Museum of Art Website

Santa Barbara Tourism Website




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