Skip to main content


Introducing the Brutons

The three Bruton sisters, Margaret, Esther, and Helen, were prolific and inventive artists working in California from the 1920s through the 1970s. Together, and separately, they experimented with modernism in a wide variety of styles and mediums, collaborated with important artists and architects, were lauded by the press, and won countless art prizes, frequently besting male artists who went on to have more successful careers. Known as the “gifted sisters from Monterey” or the “three amazing Bruton sisters,” they were called “geniuses” who “impress by the intelligence of their art.”  They earned commissions for important public art projects funded by the WPA, culminating in their masterful execution of a bas relief mural for the 1939 Golden Gate Exposition in San Francisco. The Brutons were paid $20,000 for the mural (more than $350,000 in today’s dollars), an astounding sum to earn in the final year of the Depression.   Despite their prominence in the early twentieth
Get new posts by email:

Bruton sisters featured in IMCA newsletter

The latest edition of the Monthly Muse features a great article about the Bruton sisters.  Monthly Muse is the newsletter of the Institute and Museum of California Art at UC Irvine.  You may be surprised to learn that this museum in southern California has the largest collection of works by the Bruton sisters held in a public institution.  

This museum was established not so long ago -- in 2017 -- when the Irvine Museum and the collector Gerald Buck made two huge donations totaling more than 4,500 works of art. And, as was announced yesterday, the institution just received a major gift from Jack and Shanaz Langson, allowing IMCA to build a state-of-the-art museum building and research facility to house this outstanding collection of California art.

The Gerald Buck Collection at IMCA is comprised of more than 3,000 works of 20th-century California art. Buck was an early collector of works by the Brutons, and during the 1980s he acquired twenty-eight prints, oil paintings, watercolors and mosaics by the sisters, who at that time were little known or appreciated. Buck selected pieces representing a broad range of mediums from important phases of their careers, including exceptional examples of Margaret's modernist painting, two of Helen's mosaics, and award-winning prints by both Esther and Helen.  These works were inspired by the places the Brutons lived in or visited, including Monterey, Europe, Taos, Virginia City, and Mexico. 

Until the new museum building is constructed, IMCA is holding exhibitions in a temporary gallery space near the UC Irvine campus.  The current exhibition, The Resonant Surface (which runs through February 12, 2022) is a creative exploration of movement, image, and sound in paintings from the museum's collection. 

IMCA is an important new center of California art with a bright future ahead; it will be exciting to see the museum building come to fruition in the near future.  


Popular Posts