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Class of Winter 1941
Peter Nielsen
b. Denmark, 1873
d. Santa Ana, California, 1965
Sierra Alta, c. 1941
Oil on canvas
36 x 40 inches

Peter Nielsen made bucolic paintings featuring the farms, ranches, coastal inlets, and rocky hills of San Luis Obispo County. The painting Sierra Alta is of a farm at the base of a hill, most likely Cerro Alto (high hill), one of the tallest and most impressive peaks. Nielsen was a realist; typically employing a darkened palette, his paintings underscore a dedication to the integrity of form and an attention to crisp detail, and do not usually accentuate the sunlight-and-shadow paradigm integral to the California Impressionism aesthetic. Sierra Alta, however, is suffused with drama through the artist’s adroit manipulation of shadows. It depicts a working farm complete with a plume of smoke rising from a farmhouse chimney, a subject that would have been familiar to Gardena High School students. 

GIFTED: Collecting the Art of California at Gardena High School, 1919-1956 is organized by the GHS Art Collection, Inc, in association with the Gardena High School Student Body and curated by Susan M. Anderson.