Editor's note: The Hearst Art Gallery at Saint Mary's College provided source material to Resource Library Magazine for the following article or essay. If you have questions or comments regarding the source material, please contact the Hearst Art Gallery at Saint Mary's College directly through either this phone number or web address:


Early Artists of the Bohemian Club: San Francisco as the Center of West Coast Art


August 17 through October 13, 2002, the Hearst Art Gallery takes us back a hundred and thirty years, to a time when post-Gold Rush California was developing its culture. As noted historian Kevin Starr puts it, "The 1870s were emerging as a golden age of landscape painting in the Far West, and the Athens of this golden age was San Francisco."

At the center of this still rough-and-tumble Athens was the Bohemian Club, chartered in 1872. Its founding members included newspapermen, a vintner, a printer, artists, an actor-manager, a poet, and a few men of business. Among them were such names as Ambrose Bierce, Daniel O'Connell, Joaquin Miller, and Henry George. Mark Twain and Bret Harte were honorary members, and in the next generation Jack London and Frank Norris also joined. But the club's most notable creativity was among its members who worked in the visual arts. The roll call of artists who joined the Bohemian Club in its first few years, says Starr, "constitutes a list of painters who are today recognized as important mid-nineteenth century American artists."

"The Bohemian hegemony on artistic talent continued through the turn-of-the-century period as a second generation of Bohemian artists, a number of them California-born, returned from European study to Northern California with high ambitions," Starr writes. "These younger painters were joined by a generation of sculptors, designers, architects, and writers -- again, many of them active in the Bohemian Club -- whose cumulative creativity made these years a second and even more brilliant era." It was "an astonishingly rich cadre of artists who had before themselves no less a task than the translation of American civilization, in all its eclectic vigor, to the shores of the Pacific."

The works on display date from the Bohemian Club's strongest period, from the 1870s to about 1915. Artists exhibited include Samuel Marsden Brookes, Norton Bush, Giuseppe Cadenasso, Maynard Dixon, Paul Frenzeny, Percy Grey, Thomas Hill, Christian Jorgensen, William Keith, Lorenzo Latimer, Xavier Martinez, Gottardo Piazzoni, Granville Redman, William Ritschel, Julian Rix, H. E. Smith, Jules Tavernier, Frank van Sloun, Virgil Williams, and Theodore Wores.

The artworks are on loan from numerous public and private lenders including the following institutional lenders -- Berkeley Art Museum, California Historical Society, Crocker Art Museum, California School for the Deaf, Filoli Center, Mills College Art Museum, Monterey Museum of Art, Sharpsteen Museum, Society of California Pioneers, California State Parks Museum Collections, and the Triton Museum of Art.

The exhibition curators are Julie Armistead and Nancy Ferreira.  

An abundantly illustrated full color catalog, with an essay by art historian Ann Harlow, accompanies Early Artists of the Bohemian Club.

During the exhibition will be a lecture by Dr. Starr, who will speak on "The Golden Age of Bohemian Artists," Saturday, September 28, at 7 p.m., at the St. Mary's College campus in LeFevre Theatre.  Dr. Starr, who graduated from the University of San Francisco and holds a PhD in American Literature from Harvard University and a Master of Library Science from U C Berkeley, is the author of numerous highly acclaimed books and articles on California history and a member of the Bohemian Club

[Material relating to Kevin Starr above was drawn from Dr. Starr's writing in "The Visual Arts in Bohemia" in The Annals of the Bohemian Club.]

rev. 8/13/02

Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Hearst Art Gallery in Resource Library Magazine


Resource Library Editor's note

The following additional information about the Bohemian Club was provided to Resource Library by the Irvine Museum on July 13, 2011 in connection with an exhibition held June 18 through November 3, 2011.


The Bohemian Club is a private men-only club in San Francisco. Founded in 1872, the club grew out of regular meeting of journalists, artists and musicians who wished to enjoy the arts.

In the 1870s, newspaper writers were commonly known as "Bohemians," a term that at the time signified a person of some intellectual means but of little or no financial means. Journalist and writer Bret Harte described San Francisco as a sort of "Bohemia of the West." Even before joining the club, Mark Twain had often referred to himself as a "Bohemian". Oscar Wilde, upon visiting the club in 1882, is reported to have said: "I never saw so many well-dressed, well-fed, business-looking Bohemians in my life."

Originally, journalists were regular members, and artists and musicians were honorary members. Not long afterwards, the club relaxed its rules and today, there is a diverse membership ranging from artists and musicians to businessmen and community leaders.

Among the early artists who were members of the Bohemian Club, one can count the very best painters of their day. Among these were:

Henry Joseph Breuer (1860-1932), Samuel Marsden Brooks (1816-1892)

Giuseppe Cadenasso (1859-1918), mil Carlsen (1853-1932)

Gordon Coutts (1868-1937), Edwin Deakin (1838-1926)

Maynard Dixon (1875-1946), Paul Frenzeny (1840-1902)

Percy Gray (1869-1952), William Hahn (1829-1887)

Thomas Hill (1829-1908), Clark Hobart (1868-1948)

Amédée Joullin (1862-1917), William Keith (1838-1911)

Maurice Logan (1886-1977), Xavier Martinez (1869-1943)

Arthur Mathews (1860-1945, Francis McComas (1875-1938)

Eugen Neuhaus (1879-1963), John O'Shea (1876-1956)

Jules Pagès (1867-1946), Charles Rollo Peters (1862-1928),

Gottardo Piazzoni (1872-1945), A. Phimister Proctor (1862-1950)

Arthur Putnam (1873-1930), Granville Redmond (1871-1935)

William F. Ritschel (1864-1949), Julian Rix (1850-1903)

Matteo Sandona (1881-1964), Louis Siegrist (1899-1989)

Jules Tavernier (1844-1889), Douglas Tilden (1860-1935)

Thaddeus Welch (1844-1919), Virgil Williams (1830-1886)

and Theodore Wores (1859-1939).

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

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This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 6/3/11

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