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Pageant of the Masters: Where Art Comes to Life

Artistic Inspiration


"The Swing"

For eight weeks every summer, the Pageant of the Masters turns popular paintings and sculptures into extravagant stage re-enactments at the Festival of the Arts in Laguna Beach, California. Every night, human volunteers, with their bodies painted and costumed, step into theatrical sets and freeze for 90 seconds. They create life-size renditions of 40 works, from Winslow Homer’s “The Country School” to Norman Rockwell’s “The Window Washer,” Harriet Whitney Frishmuth’s “Bubble Dance” to Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.” This one-of-a-kind theatrical event features live narration and original music performed live by the Pageant’s orchestra, blending art and theater seamlessly.

This year’s pageant takes place from July 8th through August 31st, and boasts the theme “The Pursuit of Happiness”, encouraging audiences to reflect on the importance of both joy and art in their lives. It’s exciting mix of classic Americana, vivid storytelling, wildly diverse international art and social history are all presented in the outdoor splendor of the Festival of Arts’ Irvine Bowl.


"A Winter Scene"

Laguna Beach has been an art colony since a group of painters settled there shortly after the turn of the 20th century. Seeking to sell their work, residents formed the nonprofit Festival of the Arts art fair in 1932. The following year, artist Lolita Perine and construction worker Roy Bopp had the idea for a “living art”, based on the centuries old Tableaux Vivants or Living Pictures. Convincing residents of Laguna Beach to dress in costume, they seated them behind oversized frames, recreating well-known works of art. Officially dubbed “Spirit of the Masters” in 1935, it has since evolved into an elaborate stage show featuring 500 volunteers dealing with set construction, costuming and makeup for a cast of 150 that either step into the frame of paintings or pose as sculptures.




From Make-Up to Performance


"The Birth of Old Glory"


The success of the performances depend on making three-dimensional people appear two dimensional, therefore makeup must mimic brush strokes, real hair is covered with painted hair-like caps, and costumes are sewn, then painted. Stage lighting flattens the sets by eliminating shadows and other cues of dimension. Therefore when the lights go up for the minute and a half, it’s almost impossible to tell what’s real and what’s not.
Just before each scene/work of art is displayed, models seat themselves in the stage set, while workers adjust the props, adding accessories for authenticity. As the set revolves onto the stage, lights go up and themed music plays.


"Snap the Whip"

Featured alongside the Pageant of the Masters, the Festival of Arts is a prestigious juried art show including a wide variety of media such as paintings, photography, printmaking, sculpture, jewelry, handcrafted wood and furniture, ceramics, and glass– all by 140 of Orange County’s finest artists. The festival also features demonstrations and art workshops, daily art tours, live music, special events, on-site restaurants and wine tastings.



Festival of the Arts Events


Newly Renovated Facilities

This year, a new facade and entryway for the Festival has been constructed at a cost of more than $3.5 million, allowing visitors to enjoy artistic beauty even before they enter the festival.

Where: 650 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach
Hours: Nightly at 8:30, through Aug. 31
Cost: $15-$230
For more information, visit