DispL.A. Case #57: The First Painting Of Southern California


The history of Los Angeles as told through 232 objects.

Los Angeles was founded on September 4, 1781. Between now and the 232nd anniversary, we are gathering the stories behind iconic objects that help explain our city. Los Angeles is older than Chicago, Atlanta or Washington, D.C. In fact, when L.A.’s founders were gathering at El Pueblo, New York City was still occupied by the British army. We have a long story to tell, let’s take a look back and see where the city came from. Feel free to add to this exhibition. Email your ideas to [email protected]

Museum curator Ken Luftig Viste calls San Gabriel Mission, painted by Ferdinand Deppe in 1832, the “first known painting of Southern California.” The German artist who created it traveled the new world in search of birds and plants which he sold to museums in Europe. Deppe returned a few years later as an agent for a German cattle company and learned to draw and paint to depict scenes of towns, missions, and ranchos, of everyday life in Alta California. His simple composition of the Spanish mission with native Tongva dwellings captured what a Laguna Art Museum curator described as “symbols of civilization in a largely uninhabited land.”


Ferdinand Deppe

San Gabriel Mission, c. 1832

Oil on canvas

27 x 37 inches

Laguna Art Museum Collection

Gift of Nancy Dustin Wall Moure, 1994.083


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