The Capitol Collection
Located throughout both the historic State Capitol's west wing and the East Annex, the Capitol Art Program maintains three collected works of paintings: the Permanent Collection, the Loan Collection, and the Biennial Senate Contemporary Art Collection. The combined collection inludes hundreds of prized paintings, murals, statues, and antique furniture chosen to portray the various phases of California's history and depict significant eras of the State Capitol.
More than 50 paintings in the Permanent Collection include landscapes, seascapes, still life, and paintings of scenes from ordinary life. Many of the paintings were gifts, others were acquired by the Legislature over the years as funds became available.
They are exhibited in accordance with two historic time frames. To be displayed in the west wing, a painting should have been created during the building's early, interpretive period, 1870 to 1910. Art displayed in the East Annex is from 1920 to 1950. Paintings from both time periods can be found in public hearing rooms and legislative offices.
The Loan Collection, consisting of more than 100 paintings, is mainly on display in the first floor of the west wing in legislative conference rooms and leadership offices. Paintings in this collection meet the same criteria as the others.
The Senate's Biennial California Contemporary Art Collection is drawn from contemporary artwork throughout the state. Each senator selects an artist representative of his or her district, and the collection is on display for two years in offices behind the Senate Chambers.
Additionally the Capitol is home to two stunning murals. One, installed on the walls of the west wing basement rotunda, is a fascinating depiction of California's past and future as perceived by artist Arthur Mathews during the years 1914 and 1915. Twelve panels portray the discovery of California, the Mission Period, Commodore Sloat entering Monterey Bay, the Gold Rush, other historic periods, and the artist's view of how California's future would appear.
The other important mural display is in the East Annex's John L. Burton Room on the fourth floor. The display consists of three gleaming, large murals created as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project during the Great Depression, entitled, The Origin of the Name of the State of California.
Finally in 1931 the Legislature authorized and formalized the tradition of commissioning portraits of California's governors. Portraits of 36 governors are displayed throughout the west wing. The styles vary, depending on the Governor and the artist chosen to produce the portrait.
The Capitol Art Program is maintained by a curator. The curator conducts research, maintains files, develops exhibits, recommends conservation when needed, and transfers artwork when required. The curator also advises the Legislature on possible art purchases and donations.