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Noted Southern California Impressionist Elmer Wachtel is best known for his sweeping early 20th century plein-air landscapes. Painted primarily in earth tones juxtaposed with brilliant blue and green highlights, Wachtel emphasized the rendition of natural light and atmospheric effects. His original oil paintings often feature beautiful, balanced compositions with multiple visually interesting elements and he frequently explores of the play of sunlight on the water, hillsides, and distant mountains. His wife, Marion Kavanagh Wachtel, was also a very successful early California artist, remembered for her beautiful watercolor landscape paintings.

Artworks from this era that depict a quieter, less hurried pace serve to inspire us to connect with California’s past and to the land and environment around us.

In her welcoming statement for the Irvine Museum, the institution's founder, real estate heiress Joan Irvine Smith notes that "Much of what originally made California a 'Golden Land' was directly linked to the environment, especially the land and water that nurtured and sustained a rare quality of life. Over a hundred years ago, the splendor of nature fascinated artists and compelled them to paint beautiful paintings. As we view these rare and remarkable paintings, we are returned, all too briefly, to a time long ago when the land and its bounty were open and almost limitless."

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