Rexford Elson Brandt contributed significantly to the midcentury resurgence of the watercolor medium in America. As a teenager he enrolled in Saturday classes at Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles and by 1930 was experimenting with printmaking and watercolor painting. After being graduated from Riverside (Calif.) Junior College in 1934, he spent two years at the University of California, Berkeley, assimilating the ideas of Hans Hofmann (1880-1966) and other modernists as well as studying Byzantine and Chinese art. His return to Southern California in 1936 marked the beginning of his career as a professional artist. During the late 1930s he achieved regional and national prominence, serving as director of the Works Progress Administration for Riverside and San Bernardino counties and establishing the Riverside College Art Center. Brandt also taught at Chouinard from 1947 to 1950. He and PHIL DIKE formed their own summer art school at Brandt’s studio in Corona del Mar, California, in 1947. During the 1960s Brandt and a group of artists in Newport Harbor, California, became known as the "Balboa Bay Byzantines."
Brandt’s numerous books on technique, beginning with Watercolor with Rex Brandt (1949), contributed to his national reputation. He was elected an associate of the National Academy of Design in 1955 and an academician in 1974. File has served as president of the California Water Color Society, 1948-49, and vice-president of the American Water Color Society, 1965-69. Although Brandt has worked in a variety of mediums, it is his large, boldly painted, transparent watercolors that have earned him much acclaim.
Jerome K. Muller, ed., Rex Brandt: A Portfolio of Recent Works Commemorating the First Twenty-five Years of the Brandt Workshop at Corona del Mar (Santa Ana, Calif.: Unicorn, 1972), with essays by Rex Brandt and Joan Brandt, chronology, lists of awards and exhibitions, bibliography § Moure 1975, pp. 10, 33 § Corona del Mar, Calif., Sherman Library and Gardens, Rex Brandt, "Balboa Bay Byzantine," transcript of lecture, February 19, 1982 § Riverside (Calif.) Art Center and Museum, Two from California: Joan Irving and Rex Branch, exh. cat., 1984, with essays by Janice Lovoos, biographical note, lists of exhibitions and awards, bibliography § LACMA, Research Library, "Four Decades of Alfresco Painting, with Rex Brandt, Joan Irving, and other Californians," brochure, c. 1986, with chronology of Rex Brandt-Phil Dike and Brandt painting workshops 1941-1986, statements and quotes by Brandt, Dike, and others, Brandt chronology and bibliography.