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January 25, 1987|Suzanne Muchnic

ARTISTS IN CALIFORNIA: 1786-1940 by Edan Milton Hughes (Hughes Publishing, 640 Church St., San Francisco 94114; $60). "Eureka! After 25 years in the making, here is the most comprehensive reference work ever done on artists who were active in early California." That immodest dust-jacket claim is difficult to dispute. Who can argue with 6,600 biographical listings dominated by the obscure?

Entries running from three lines to eight inches encompass everyone from the most celebrated to "amateur sketch artists." Here's a name I know: Phillip Herschel Paradise, a painter, sculptor and illustrator who taught at Chouinard, lectured at Scripps College and now works in San Luis Obispo. Next to him is the much more prominent Bay Area Expressionist David Park, but on the same page are other Parks and Parkes, a Pappel, a Pardee, a Paris and a Parish probably forgotten by all but their families and hometown historians. Without illustrations to substantiate aesthetic worth, one can only guess at the wisdom of including so many unknowns, but recovering the lost was the point for Hughes. He has done an unfathomable amount of work to compile a dictionary that is certain to become an essential reference to the trade.

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