UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman (left) and James Irvine Swinden. Steve Zylius / UCI

Irvine, Calif., Nov. 7, 2016 – James Irvine Swinden, president of The Irvine Museum, has announced the transfer of the museum’s remarkable collection of California impressionist paintings, valued at approximately $17 million, to the University of California, Irvine. The campus’s largest single gift of art to date, this generous donation has initiated the process of constructing a museum at UCI.

“We are privileged to accept this gift, which not only reaffirms a long and supportive relationship between UCI and the Irvine family, but also lays a foundation for advancing UCI as a destination for people who want to understand the world and human experience through California art,” said UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman. “All collectors should know that our ambition is to become the focus for the study and appreciation of California art. After all, what better place to be the steward of this genre than a campus of the University of California?”

Founded in 1992 by Joan Irvine Smith, Athalie Richardson Irvine Clarke and James Irvine Swinden, The Irvine Museum houses famous works of art from such legendary painters as Franz A. Bischoff, Jessie Botke, Alson S. Clark, Frank Cuprien, Armin C. Hansen, Anna Hills, Joseph Kleitsch, Paul de Longpré, Arthur Mathews, Granville Redmond, William Ritschel, Guy Rose, Donna Schuster and William Wendt. Jean Stern, who has served as executive director since the museum’s founding, will continue with the new museum.

  • Armin Hansen, “The Farmhouse,” c. 1915. The Irvine Museum

“With this gift, UCI is receiving one of the finest collections of California impressionism of any entity in California, and perhaps the world,” said Stephen Barker, dean of the Claire Trevor School of the Arts. “A permanent collection with such depth in a single genre significantly raises the university’s profile.”

Until the campus identifies an alternative site, the artwork will continue to be displayed at the current location of The Irvine Museum, near John Wayne Airport. Tours of the exhibitions will remain free and open to the public.

“We are so pleased to contribute to the original vision for the campus outlined by its architect, William Pereira, which included an art museum,” Swinden said. “Our collection has attracted art lovers to more than 70 exhibitions since the museum opened 24 years ago, and it will provide the basis for a world-class museum that others who appreciate this important genre can support.”

The Irvine family has been an enthusiastic advocate of UCI since long before the first students were welcomed in 1965. Joan Irvine Smith and Athalie Richardson Irvine Clarke led the charge to create a research university in the heart of Orange County, believing it would add to the economic and intellectual vitality of the region. They spearheaded the campaign that resulted in the 1960 sale of 1,000 acres of Irvine Company land to the UC Board of Regents for $1 to establish UCI. They have continued to support the campus as it has gained a global reputation as a premier university.

“This record-breaking art donation to the university adds to UCI’s reputation as a top-ranked, comprehensive research university,” said Brian Hervey, vice chancellor for university advancement. “We look forward to working with the community to create the very finest museum for the appreciation and study of these works. Combined with existing art at UCI, the collection will be used as a focus of research by visiting scholars and artists as well as for public presentations, colloquia and conferences.”

About The Irvine Museum: Since its opening on Jan. 15, 1993, The Irvine Museum has been dedicated to the preservation and display of California art of the impressionist period (1890-1930). It has played a principal role in the education and furtherance of this important regional variant of American impressionism that has come to be associated with California and its landscape. The museum is currently located at 18881 Von Karman Ave., Suite 100, Irvine, Calif., 92612. For more information, visit http://www.irvinemuseum.org.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.

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