Laguna Beach – A Look Back

Courtesy of Laguna Beach Historical Society

Last week, we looked back at an early Temple Hills neighborhood. This week, here is the same time frame (1930ish) at Bluebird Canyon.

Homes had much more land back then, and the simple clapboard style with a pitched roof was a standard of early Laguna. To add interest to this photo, this is the home and studio of famous Laguna artist Frank Cuprien.

Mr. Cuprien was born in Brooklyn and studied both art and music. It is sometimes forgotten he was an accomplished singer and classical piano master. After art training in New York and Philadelphia, he completed an 11-year residency in Europe. Returning to the states, he accepted a faculty position at Baylor in Texas, where he taught as a professor for five years. Years later he would often sign his paintings “Prof Frank Cuprien.”

In 1912, in love with seascapes and the plein air impressionist movement, he left Baylor to spend more time in the Southern California beach areas. He was especially charmed by Laguna Beach’s coves and sunsets. After briefly living in Catalina, he permanently moved to Laguna Beach.

He built his home and studio on a bluff with a commanding ocean view, naming the rustic studio “the Viking.” He would draw the ocean by day and host piano recitals by night from this home. 

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Bluebird Canyon, circa 1930s – the home and studio of artist Frank Cuprien

Cuprien became one of the leaders in our growing art community through the 1920s. He was one of the founders of the Laguna Beach Art Association, and the first art gallery. 

“The Viking” was a vibrant bohemian site for his fellow artists to hang out and was a venue for frequent exhibitions and of course his famous piano recitals.

Known as the “dean of Laguna artists,” he passed of a stroke in “the Viking” in 1948 at age 76. He left his estate to the Laguna Beach Art Association, and requested he be buried in his blue painter’s smock. 

Cuprien Way, next to the corner of Wendt Drive and Thalia Street, is named in his honor but was not the site of “the Viking.” Viking Way, an oceanfront street at the base of Bluebird Canyon Drive, is said to have been named after the studio.

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Laguna Beach Historical Society is located at 278 Ocean Ave. They are open Friday - Sunday from 1 - 4 p.m. For more information, call (949) 497-6834 or visit