The Hilbert Museum of California Art Presents: Scenic View Ahead: The Westways Cover Art Program, 1928-1981

Corporate Information
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Copyright Automobile Club of Southern California Archives

The Hilbert Museum of California Art at Chapman University will present Scenic View Ahead: The Westways Cover Art Program, 1928-1981, one of the largest exhibitions of works from the Westways cover art program ever mounted.  Westways is the member magazine of the Automobile Club of Southern California.

The exhibition will run March 31 through October 13, 2018.  The Hilbert Museum of California Art is located at 167 N. Atchison Street in Orange, Calif., across from the Orange Metrolink station.  Admission is free, and parking is free in front of the building and in the Chapman University parking structure at 230 N. Cypress Street (top level only).  Regular museum hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The public can call 714-516-5880 for more information, or visit www.hilbertmuseum.org.

“We are delighted to showcase these important and beautiful paintings that delineate the development of transportation as well as the Automobile Club of Southern California’s long and impressive history in our state,” said Mary Platt, director of the Hilbert Museum. “Beginning in the late 1920s, the Auto Club commissioned many of the finest artists in California and the West to create its magazine covers, and they brought their own individual styles and viewpoints to the mix.  Auto Club members were able to view the outstanding sights of the West, from the national parks to the coastlines, mountains and cities, through the eyes of these remarkable painters. Their cover art, and the articles and helpful information packed into Westways magazine, encouraged the enthusiasm for motoring and sightseeing that was the foundation of the West’s tourism economy.”

The Westways cover art program began in 1928, with the Auto Club commissioning paintings from major artists working in Southern California for the cover of each issue of its member magazine. With 55 artworks on view, the Hilbert Museum’s exhibition traces prominent styles of art through most of the twentieth century, such as California scene painting and Pop Art.

Launched in 1909, Westways was originally called Touring Topics. One of its early editors, Phil Townsend Hanna, began the program to commission art in 1928. His move reflected a shift in the magazine’s content from automobile-related topics to a broader interest in cultural and recreational activities. The magazine’s covers were intended to mirror the breadth of interests and backgrounds of its readers, the Auto Club members.

Curated by Platt and Emily Valdez, with support from Auto Club historian Matthew W. Roth and archivist Morgan P. Yates, Scenic View Ahead features the work of plein air masters Alson Clark, Maynard Dixon, John Frost and Donna Schuster, as well as renowned watercolorists Rex Brandt, Phil Dike and Maurice Logan. In its final decades, the cover art program expanded its scope to include graphic artists such as Jan Sawka and Merle Shore, who designed posters, album covers and sets for films and theater. Although the magazine turned to photography for its covers after 1981, the remarkable original works of art that were created during the program offer an artistic and cultural journey through the region’s history. Related historical materials from the Auto Club archives, including vintage travel brochures, hand-drawn maps and road signs, also will be featured.

The Hilbert Museum of California Art at Chapman University, which opened in 2016, was founded thanks to the generosity of founders Mark and Janet Hilbert. The Hilbert Collection – which includes oils, watercolors and drawings of urban and industrial scenes, coastal views, farms, ranches and landscapes of everyday life – is a significant repository of images of the 20th century by California artists, celebrating the unique artistic and cultural development of the Golden State. The collection also includes movie and animation production art and American illustration.

The Automobile Club of Southern California, the largest member of the AAA federation of motor clubs, has been providing service since 1900. Today, the Auto Club’s members benefit by roadside assistance, insurance products and services, travel agency, financial products, automotive pricing and buying programs, automotive testing and analysis, trip planning services and highway and transportation safety programs. More information about the Auto Club is available at www.aaa.com.