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Lost Impressionist Treasures Restored

January 20, 1999

GARDENA, Calif. (AP) _ Dozens of early 20th century California Impressionist oil paintings that spent nearly four decades in a musty school basement have been rescued and restored for public display.

Starting in 1919, graduating seniors from what was then Gardena High School would vote on a favorite painting, then buy it for a collection that hung in the school library.

The tradition ended about the time a new high school was built in 1956 and the old Gardena High became what is now Robert Peary Middle School.

Thirty-one of the paintings went on exhibition Tuesday in ``Painted Light: California Impressionist Paintings,″ which opened at Cal State Dominguez Hills in Carson.

``It’s like seeing old friends,″ said Bill Best, class of 1950, as he attended a preview.

The paintings were among 90 kept in the school’s basement until the W.M. Keck Foundation donated $300,000 for restoration.

Los Angeles is in the process of doing an inventory of the enormous collection of an estimated $20 million in artwork tucked away in schools throughout the sprawling district. State law prohibits their sale.

Among the paintings on exhibit are Maynard Dixon’s ``Men of the Red Earth,″ Franz A. Bischoff’s ``A Cool Fog Drifting,″ and John Frost’s ``Desert Twilight.″ Anchoring the exhibit is the mammoth ``The Betatakin Ruins,″ by James Guifford Swinnerton.

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