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Crain is no artist himself. Asked if he ever trained with Brandt, he replied with a laugh that "the last time I had a brush in my hand was in the eighth grade." For the California art world, though, he's a valued resource. The Laguna Art Museum once hosted an exhibit of works from Crain's collection, which spotlights Brandt as well as Depression era peers Phil Dike and Millard Sheets, and he can name the other collectors whose hands the works have passed through.
"When I owned the building where I hung all these things, I've had artists come just to look at that painting," the Emerald Bay resident said, then studied it closely as he sized it up: "Very thinly painted of pigment. Use of white paper. Great, great imagination leaving a lot to almost accidental stuff, I would say."
"That one," he said, gesturing to an image of sailboats in the water, "is the property of the late Gerald Buck." Buck, a famously private man who also hailed from Newport Beach, died last year at age 73.
On this day, as the museum prepared to open the exhibit, bubble wrap and plastic tarp lay about the galleries; rugs Nike Black Pants
The sunlight that drenched "Allende" was a motif throughout the gallery: morning on the ocean, surfers silhouetted by dusky yellow, sails' outlines bleached white and blended into the sky. For that matter, the paintings had recently taken their own journey into the light, even if it was electric museum light and not the California sunshine that Brandt meticulously captured.
Sun," evoked another memory for Crain.
The small canvas, propped against the gallery wall, evoked the feel of a dusty street on a blistering day: buildings reduced to mostly white and tan masses beneath the blue sky, with a splotch of yellow in the middle that resembled the sun's glare caught on a viewer's glasses.
"My wife and I were just raving about Joan's work how good she was, how talented, sensitive, how well she did children," Crain said. "We were likening her to Mary Cassatt and blah blah blah, on and on and on. Rex just sat there.
supported the propped up paintings, while pages taped to the walls showed where they would eventually hang. Crain brought a behind the scenes artifact of his own: a Brandt piece that he had recently acquired in Texas, though it wouldn't hang in the Laguna show.
One night in the 1960s, Crain and his wife were enjoying dinner with Brandt and his wife painter Joan Irving, a co founder of the Orange County Museum of Art and the conversation turned to Irving's brilliance.
In recent years, the works in Crain's collection have spent most of their time packed away at his home, in storage, with friends. It's rare for him to see them displayed together. But when the Laguna Art Museum planned "Rex Brandt: In Praise of Sunshine," a career retrospective of the late artist, Crain ended up contributing nearly half the pieces.
As E. Gene Crain peered down to look at the 1969 painting by Rex Brandt, titled "Sunlight San Miguel Allende," he recalled its journey to this spot at the Laguna Art Museum. It was a journey that Crain, a longtime friend of the artist, helped to guide himself from his home in Corona del Mar, where Brandt stopped by one day to show him the work, to the Newport Beach law office that Crain turned into an unofficial Brandt museum for years.
In 1961, Crain, who rented a Corona del Mar apartment from Brandt's printer, found himself admiring a group of works at his landlord's Nike Socks Plain White
"Rex owned boats and sailboats," he said. "He sailed. And he said, 'You can't really paint a sailboat unless you've been a sailor.' And he sailed a lot. He was a big man, about six five, six six, and strong good tennis player, good athlete and very well conditioned all his life."Crain has only vague memories of the first time he met Brandt. The details have slipped his mind, but he recalls the artist's presence and how long, that day, he ended up being its audience.
As Crain stepped from room Nike Joggers Womens Grey to room with curator Janet Blake in tow, he rattled off one story after another about how he had acquired the different pieces some from Brandt himself, some from collectors. How many Brandt works does he have by now? He couldn't pinpoint the exact number, but it's in the triple digits.
Shining light on legacy of Brandt
home. The landlord suggested that Crain visit Brandt at home, which he did one morning. The tall man who answered the door, as Crain wrote in an essay in the Laguna show's catalog, looked suspicious that the visitor was there to sell encyclopedias or magazines.
That image, 1986's "Afternoon Nike Women's Down Coat
"Finally, he'd had enough, and he tapped me on the shoulder, and he went back and showed me these two paintings. His point was well made."
"He is the only man I ever knew that I think may have had an original thought," Crain said of his longtime friend. "That's hard to come by."Oh, yes, the dinner party. When Crain stopped by "Strong Light" and "Magic Night," a pair of paintings that appear side by side in the museum like a married couple, he recalled how marriage itself played a part in his acquiring them.
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