As European colonists settled America’s eastern regions, they mirrored the aesthetic sensibilities of their forefathers. Reiterating Classical and medieval forms, they sought to imitate the familiar and find security in associations with an imagined grand aristocratic past. As colonists spread further west and deeper into Southern California, they combined their European inspired flair with a new freedom of development and the desire to mold the state into a “new” Mediterranean for its geographical and climatic similarities. Medieval art appreciation and collection by the wealthy elite proliferated, facilitated by an extraordinary series of events that enabled the mass importation of the world’s great treasures to the US. Today’s art museums and the eclectic California cityscape reflect their taste and monumental collecting legacies.
Through research in archives and secondary sources, I evaluate the hypothesis that these art objects functioned as socio-cultural tools to promote the ideals and legacy of the White-colonial settler nation, and thereby the ethical dilemma that we face today as we identify their role in the erasure of indigenous culture and identity in service of a White Anglo-Saxon identity. Further, I examine the lasting ramifications of this prominent legacy, growing awareness and promoting greater cultural inclusions to Southern California’s art institutions.