1860 (Markesan, Wisconsin)
1945 (San Francisco, California)
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handcrafted items, decorative, muralist, educator
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San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915
Paris Pre 1900
|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|A central figure with his wife Lucia in turn-of-the-century, post
earthquake San Francisco, Arthur Mathews devoted himself to
reconstruction of the fine arts in the Bay Area. He had diverse
talents that embraced architecture, mural painting, furniture making,
printing, and urban design, and his style became known as California
Decorative. His murals and paintings came to exemplify the Art
Nouveau style. He was also a proponent of the American
Renaissance style, based on classical disciplines and subject matter of
the Italian Renaissance.|
In his allegorical paintings, Mathews
often included female figures in classical dress and used a Tonalist
approach with flat patterns and intense color. Described as
"fairy tales for grownups," (Boas), these paintings answered society's
need for a sense of refinement and elegance.
He was credited
with bringing Californians into their first contact with the design and
colors of Paul Gaughin and with the Tonalist aesthetic of James
Whistler, which he admired in France where he studied from 1885 to
1889. He later was accused of shutting out the influences of
His forceful, dominant personality aroused
resentment, and progressive artists rebelled against him because he
eschewed the encroaching modernist styles. However, he remained
the leading force in the rebuilding of San Francisco. His idea
that art should inspire higher meaning and a sense of order in society
reached its height in the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition
in San Francisco.
Arthur Mathews was born in Markesan,
Wisconsin, and moved to Oakland, California at age six. During
his teen-age years, he attended Oakland High School, and worked in his
father's architectural office. He later enrolled at the San
Francisco School of Design where he studied with Virgil Williams.
He also worked as a design-illustrator for lithographers, Britton &
He studied four years in Paris at the Academie Julian and
then became Director of the School of Design in San Francisco, a
position he held until the 1906 earthquake and fire. He and his wife
Lucia then opened a furniture shop on California Street where they
hand-crafted items and rekindled the artistic spirit in San Francisco
following the earthquake.
Edan Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940
|Biography from William A. Karges Fine Art - Carmel:|
|Arthur Mathews moved to the San Francisco Bay area at the age of 6. Having chosen art over his father’s architecture career, Mathews studied at the San Francisco School of Design, at which he would later serve as Director from 1889-1906. |
Mathews continued his formal education at the Academie Julian in Paris. Following the 1906 earthquake, Mathews resigned his post at the School of Design and, with his wife, opened the Mathews Furniture Shop.
Mathews eschewed Impressionism, and his decorative works were an amalgam of Arts and Crafts and classical Tonalist styles.
Regarded as a major influence in the art community of San Francisco, Mathews died in that city in 1945.
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