IX. The Perpetual Art Student:
A Lifetime Pursuit of Learning

Alice Klauber, Artichokes, oil, San Diego Museum of Art collection.

. . . Ars longa, vita brevis est.
. .. . . . . . . . .. -Horace

. . . Literally, if you want to be remembered beyond a lifetime, paint a lasting and famous picture. That is the challenge to would be artists. The art of a master will live long after his death. To paint a masterpiece however requires training and a developing connoisseurship. Miss Klauber was no exception even though there is an apparent humility about her approach. With the support of her family, she began seriously training as a young girl in San Francisco.

Unknown photographer, Alice Klauber in an unknown Sculptor’s studio, courtesy of the Klauber family.

Unknown photographer, View of a bust portrait of Alice, date unknown, courtesy of the Klauber family.

. . . It has been suggested in conversation that the sculptor may have been Alice’s colleague and fellow artist Ruth Ball by one of Ball’s former students and friend, Stan Sowinski, who also was acquainted with Miss Klauber. Apparently she had a studio in the Melville Klauber’s Gill-Mead home at Sixth and Richmond Streets near Balboa Park. Gill planned a studio for Klauber’s wife, Amy, who had studied painting with Emil Carlson in San Francisco, on the third floor of the home that was razed in 1979. Ball was essentially a noted local architectural sculptor. Her paintings were usually given away according to Sowinski. Apparently Alice had arranged for Ball to stay there in a basement room where she slept on a cot. (conversation with Stan Sowinski, December 9, 2006)


Unknown photographer, Two views of a bust portrait of her, date unknown, courtesy of the Klauber family.

. . . By 1870 San Francisco had made inroads as the cultural center of the West coast that offered some competition for Eastern cultural centers, giving Californians a sense of cultural achievement to the frontier residents of the romantic West. Fortunes had been made from the gold fields and statehood had given a sense of economic and political stability. Railroads linked the East and West Coasts. Spectacular mountain ranges had lost their mystery and the West Coast citizens such as legendary lawman, Wyatt Earp, had settled into a more sedate and domestic life style. Stately mansions were built by the neauveu riche that became repositories of large gilt-framed canvases by the romantic landscapists, Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Moran and Thomas Hill. Mexican-Spanish traditions and Asian exoticism were blended and art schools and art centers were attracting teachers and students from across the continent and Europe. The Romantic and mysterious West was closing. The competition between Eastern and Western style and sophistication has never fully abated.

. . . The first Association of Artists in California, the Art Union, was organized at the end of the Civil War, 1n1865, fifteen years after California declared statehood. Billed as the first art school in the West, the San Francisco Art Association resulted from a meeting in the Spring of 1871 at the home of English watercolorist, Juan Buckingham Wandes Forda 1817-1902. Joining him were William Alvord, Benjamin Parks Avery, 1828-1875, Edward Bosque, 1832-1917, Samuel Marsden Brooks, 1816-1892, Richard Bush Gideon Jaques Denny, 1830-1886, Thomas Hill, 1829-1908, William Keith, 1838-1911, William Lewis Marple, 1827-1910, Pietro Mezzara, 1823-1883, and Ernesta Narjot, 1827-1898. Their stated purpose was to train fine and commercial artists and art teachers. The Association opened February 9, 1874, with Virgil Williams, 1830-1886, as its first director. Entrance required students to provide examples of their drawings. The first class of forty students assembled in the formally designated, California School of Design, at 313 Pine Street. For unknown reasons, six School of Design students left to form the Art Students League in 1884 and hired Theodore Wores, 1858-1939, as their first instructor. They rented a studio at 729 Montgomery Street. Members managed studio matters and hired the teachers and models, sharing all expenses. Here, when being a serious artist was unthinkable for a man let alone a woman, a teen aged Alice Klauber began her formal training. She studied with later faculty members Emil Carlsen, 1853-1932, Arthur Mathews, 1860-1945, Bruce Porter, 1865-1953, and Frederick Yates, some of the most advanced painters of the time. The class was now made up with 27 students. Frederick Yates provided Miss Klauber with an introduction to Laurence Binyon then on the staff of the British Museum and an early specialist of Oriental art. Her independent study and interest, especially Japanese art, was already evident. She appreciated the poetic attitude toward life expressed in both Japanese and Chinese art and felt it exerted its influence upon her own work. In 1892 when she returned to San Diego, she had acquired about twenty examples making her one of the earliest collectors on the West Coast. 51 She was probably “San Diego’s first bonafied connoisseur of Japanese prints,” wrote Reginald H. Poland, director of the San Diego Museum of Art, 1925-1950, to Judson D. Metzger, a highly recognized authority on the medium. “Miss Klauber has prominently identified with the work of the Fine Arts Gallery. In 1926 she organized its Oriental arts department and was actively engaged in building interest in the arts of the Orient for many years. She acquired many of them…and has an insight into their beauty that is not fully shared by all of us.”


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