Painters had been settling in California since the second half of the nineteenth century but it was not until the early part of the twentieth century that the identity of California painting firmly defined itself as a major movement in the history of American art. Critic John Ruskin had earlier challenged artists to describe nature in ideal terms of careful observation and accurate description and the artists of California responded by depicting their surrounding landscape en plein air. The distinctive topography and unique colors of the California scenery immediately inspired artists and impelled them to work directly from nature as demonstrated by the European Impressionists of a previous generation.
Granville Redmond was a leader of this new school of California Impressionism and like many of his contemporaries carried with him a sensitivity to this new style of painting grounded in formal academic training received back East and in Europe. Redmond was raised in Northern California and despite an early bout with scarlet fever that left him deaf, he quickly demonstrated an affinity for fine art and received a scholarship to study abroad at the Academie Julian. Redmond returned to California in 1898 and settled in Los Angeles where his more European tonalist style of painting soon developed into a brighter palette that was immediately inspired by the exceptional northern and southern California landscape.
Granville Redmond's depictions of blooming poppy fields are among the artist's most sought after subjects. Glorious hillsides dotted with bold orange and yellow blooming poppies set against cooler green meadows and towering hills, are at once realistic views of the California spring as well as confident personal expressions from the leader of the region's plein-air movement. The artist's bold palette and expansive subjects quickly garnered praise from new patrons and established Redmond in an important place in the broader Calfiornia artistic community.
"Redmond, who had a distinctive style, at times somewhat akin to the pointillism produced by certain of the French Impressionists, followed the imperative of a deep personal philosophy. He felt that the artist should approach painting with a positive, untroubled state of mind, knowing clearly what he wished to express and striving to put his soul into each work." (R.L. Westphal, Plein Air Painters of California: The Southland, Irvine, California, 1988, p. 93) This purity of approach and confident vision are clearly evident in California Hills, a superb rendering that combines Redmond's early tonalist style with his favorite subject matter.