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Leon Amyx Mini Retro – You’re Invited!

By January 29, 2019March 1st, 2019One Comment

Exhibit opening during Art After Dark from 6-8pm

Exhibit runs February 1st – April 1st



After graduating from San Jose State College in l932 Leon moved to Salinas to teach art to 7th and 8th graders at the Central Grammar School. He began painting landscapes of the area immediately.

John Steinbeck, who was born in Salinas, was living in Pacific Grove at the time. Although it seems that Leon and John Steinbeck never personally crossed paths, their lives’ work did. In 1933 Steinbeck wrote to a friend, “I think I would like to write a story of the whole (Salinas) Valley.” From 1932 through the 1960s Amyx focused on painting “The Valley,” from Moss Landing by the bay to San Ardo in the south.

Steinbeck grew up in a house on Central Avenue, a mere four blocks from Central Park where Amyx started teaching at the new Salinas Junior College in 1936.

In 1939 Steinbeck wrote the “Grapes of Wrath,” a story about a poor family fleeing the dust bowl in Oklahoma. During this same time period Amyx painted scenes of East Salinas. This part of Salinas was undeveloped and colloquially known as “Little Oklahoma” because that was where families, often poor and from Oklahoma, settled.

Steinbeck’s 1932 book “Pastures of Heaven” took place in Corral de Tierra, half way between Salinas and Monterey. Amyx and his family moved to San Benancio, the Canyon next to Corral de Tierra, in 1946. Amyx extended his area of painting to these two canyons.

Perhaps the most interesting parallel in their creative work was Steinbeck’s 1938 “The Long Valley,” a collection of short stories depicting the region. Amyx’s 1940-42 Master’s thesis, “Salinas Valley: An art study in Human Geography,” included 34 paintings of the farming activity in the valley.

The paintings in this exhibit include 19 paintings that show the progression of Amyx’s work – from his student days starting in 1929, through 6 decades to his last painting in 1993.

In the thirties Amyx spent most summers studying at the California College of Arts and Crafts, the University of California in Berkeley and Mills College. He studied with well know artists, including Xavier Martinez, Hamilton Wolf, Earl Loran, Leon Kroll and Millard Sheets.

Amyx became associated with the southern California scene painters while studying and working with Sheets at the Claremont graduate school during the summers of 1940, 41 and 42.

In the late 1940s through the 1950s Amyx took a renewed interest in Cezanne and Cezanne’s emphasis on composition, concepts Amyx was introduced to earlier when studying with Earl Loran. From this Amyx developed a very personal style on his views of the landscape. His family would later refer to these unique landscapes as the “real Amyx” paintings.

In the summers of 1957 and 1958 Amyx returned to Claremont to study ceramics under Paul Soldner. He became so enamored with clay that in the 1960s he developed and taught the ceramics program at Hartnell College. He also continued to paint on location, but his work appeared to be done more spontaneously and became more impressionistic.

During a sabbatical trip to Europe in 1962-’63 and another visit after his retirement in 1973, he would do hundreds of small sketches. Paintings from these sketches during the 1970s were lighter and more colorful, perhaps an influence from seeing the Impressionists’ paintings in France.

In the 1980s Amyx developed macular degeneration. When the condition
progressed to the point that he could no longer see to paint representationally, he explored total abstraction. With his background in music and knowledge of composition he would create wonderful rhythmic and dynamic paintings.

Please enjoy Leon Amyx’s life’s work at Art Central Gallery during Art After Dark this Friday and talk with his son, Chet Amyx, one of Art Central’s exhibiting artists.

This extraordinary Mini Retro will hang for two months – Don’t miss it!

One Comment

  • Chester Amyx says:

    Great new post! Very complete. Let’s hope the heavy rain projected for Friday doesn’t develop too much and keep people away.