World-Class Collection of Art – Focused on “California Scene” Painting – Will Be Exhibited to the Public, First in a Temporary Museum Opening in Fall 2015, and Then in a Permanent Hilbert Museum on the Chapman Campus

Mary Platt
Director of Communications and Media Relations
Chapman University

ORANGE, Calif. – Chapman University has received a major gift of California art, valued at in excess of $7 million, from noted collectors Mark and Janet Hilbert of Newport Coast, in addition to $3 million from the couple toward establishing a museum on campus in which to permanently display the collection to the public.

Chapman will celebrate the gift at a dedication event at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, November 13, 2014, at the former Villa Park Orchards Packing House, 350 N. Cypress Street in Orange. The event will feature a display of paintings from the collection; a lecture by Jean Stern, director of the Irvine Museum; and remarks by the Hilberts and Chapman President Jim Doti.

The Hilbert Collection consists mostly of works in oil and watercolor created between the 1930s and the 1970s by such icons of the “California Scene” movement as Millard Sheets, Emil Kosa Jr., Phil Dike, Milford Zornes and Rex Brandt, among others. A portion of the Hilberts’ collection of more than 1,000 paintings will be displayed at first in a temporary museum Chapman will create in a renovated building owned by the university at 166 N. Cypress Street in Orange. The temporary museum is scheduled to open in fall 2015.

“Near Modesto” (1940) painting.

“Near Modesto” (1940)
Artist: Emil Kosa Jr.
Oil, 22” x 28”

Later, a larger segment of the collection, plus rotating exhibitions, will be displayed in the permanent Hilbert Museum of California Art, planned to be constructed inside the renovated Villa Park Orchards Packing House on the corner of Cypress Street and Palm Avenue in Orange. That building is also owned by Chapman and is tentatively scheduled to open as a multi-use facility – including the Museum, dining spaces and academic areas – as soon as fall 2017.

The Hilberts’ generous $3 million monetary donation will be used toward the establishment of the museum, to support the collection and to enhance its educational mission.

“This is an incredibly important gift to Chapman University, and we are honored that the world-class Hilbert collection of California art has been placed into our care to share with our students, the Chapman community and the public,” said President Doti. “The art, the lives of the artists, their place in California art and American art history, and the personal vision of the amazing couple who collected the works have much to teach all of us.”

“We are delighted that Chapman University will be the new home of these works we have devoted ourselves to collecting, and that they will be shared with the students, faculty, visiting researchers and the wider public,” said donor Mark Hilbert. “We feel that the university’s mission, and its unique location in historic Old Towne Orange, already a magnet for those interested in the rich California history of the area, makes it the perfect location for a museum showcasing these works, inspiring people with their beauty and encouraging intellectual inquiry.”

About the California Art to be exhibited:

The Hilbert Museum of California Art at Chapman University will be dedicated to exhibiting paintings by California’s premier representational artists from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Artists Millard Sheets, Emil Kosa Jr., Phil Dike, Paul Sample, Rex Brandt, Phil Paradise, Milford Zornes, Barse Miller and Dong Kingman were among the most celebrated California representational artists of the 20th century, and their art, along with art by other acclaimed California artists, will be continuously on exhibit at this museum.

These artists were highly creative and imaginative in their individual approaches to creating art, but always produced works based on subject matter that is easy to recognize; hence the term “representational art” to describe the type of art they produced. Recognizable subject matter that served as inspiration for their art ranges widely from city scenes to country scenes, from coastline beach scenes to figurative and still-life works.

During the years from 1930 to 1970, all of the above-mentioned artists were key contributors to what became known as the “California Style” of watercolor painting. The innovative watercolor paintings they produced received national and international acclaim, as did the animated cartoon films that many of the artists worked on at Walt Disney Studios and the work they did on animation and sets with other film studios. The fine-art watercolors and animation production art will be featured in special exhibits.

When the artists produced works with oil paints or watercolors that focused on scenes of everyday life in California, and the art reveals signs of humanity by including people or manmade objects – such as automobiles, trucks, buildings, freeways, trains,  piers or factories – they are often referred to as “California Scene Paintings.” Many of the works in the Hilbert Collection fall into this category of art, making them the center of attention for the permanent museum collection exhibit.

Currently there is a rapidly growing interest in this art – and thanks to visionary donors and collectors Mark and Jan Hilbert, there will now be, for the first time, a museum where this art will be on permanent display to inspire young art students, and to bring joy to all those interested in viewing important examples of American art that were produced by California’s premier artists of the past and present.

The Hilbert Temporary Museum of California Art

(Opening fall 2015 at 166 N. Cypress Street, Orange)

The Hilbert Temporary Museum, set to open in 2015, will be located in a Chapman-owned building on Cypress Street, adjacent to the university’s Partridge Dance Center and across from the Orange train station. The building includes 7,500 feet of flexible exhibition space and will feature rotating exhibitions drawn from the Hilbert Collection. This museum will provide temporary space in which to display a portion of the artworks until the permanent Hilbert Museum is completed.

The Hilbert Museum of California Art

(Tentative opening 2017 in the former Villa Park Orchards Packing House)

The Hilbert Museum of California Art, to be located in the former Villa Park Orchards Packing House, will include some 18,000 square feet of exhibition space, including two permanent galleries and one gallery for rotating exhibits that will include traveling exhibitions from other museums. In addition to the Museum, the historically restored and repurposed Packing House facility will include dining spaces, academic and office areas. The University plans to work closely with preservation experts to retain the historic appearance of the 1918 building, which was Orange’s last working fruit and avocado packing house before closing in 2010.


Consistently ranked among the top universities in the West, Chapman University provides a uniquely personalized and interdisciplinary educational experience to highly qualified students. Our programs encourage innovation, creativity and collaboration, and focus on developing global citizen-leaders who are distinctively prepared to improve their community and their world. Visit us at

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