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 Esther Anna Hunt  (1875 - 1951)

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Lived/Active: California/Nebraska      Known for: painter-Oriental figure, portrait, landscape

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Ad Code: 3
Esther Anna Hunt
from Auction House Records.
Chinese figures in a temple interior
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Grand Island, Nebraska, Esther Hunt became a painter focused on Oriental themes, especially portraits and figures she did from models that she found in Chinatown in San Francisco.

She spent some of her early childhood in Columbus, Nebraska.  Her father, Stephen Barton, died when she was four years old in 1879, and two years later her mother remarried, and the family went to California. 

Her stepfather was Captain John A. Frazier, and he took his wife and her children to San Diego County where he acquired 700 acres of land and established the town of Carlsbad.  In 1893, the family moved to Los Angeles, and from 1896 to 1900, Esther Hunt was listed in the City Directory as an artist.

In 1901 she enrolled at the Mark Hopkins Institute in San Francisco, and financed her education with paintings of Chinatown child genre figures and portraits.  They became popular and widely circulated when she perfected a color process to make reproductions, which featured the colorful costumes of the children.   A marketing agent sold them in the East.

Making money, she traveled to New York City and enrolled in the Art Students League from 1903 to 1905 and studied with William Merritt Chase in New York and in Paris for six years.  In Paris she studied portraiture.  During her career when she had returned from Europe, she had studios in Los Angeles  from 1913-1918,  San Francisco from 1918 to 1926, Greenwich Village in New York from 1927 to 1931, San Francisco from 1932 to 1945, and Santa Ana until her death in 1951.

When she returned to Los Angeles in 1913, she again took up her interest in Chinese subjects and made many painting trips to San Francisco.  Settling there in 1918, she devoted most of her attention to Oriental subjects and had a nation-wide market for her paintings, prints, postcards, and colored ceramic figurines.  She also did portraits of children in France, beach scenes at Laguna and Native American women and children from the Pomo of northern California.

Exhibitions included the San Francisco Art Association, Panama-California Exposition and the Paris Salon.

Sources include:
Phil Kovinick and Marian Yoshiki Kovinick, An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West, p. 154
Paul Sternberg, Art by American Women

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Esther Anna Hunt was born in Grand Island, NE on Aug. 30, 1875. Esther Hunt moved to San Diego in 1881 and she grew up on a ranch there. From 1896-1900 she worked as an artist in Los Angeles. Upon moving to San Francisco, she studied art at the Mark Hopkins Institute (1901). As a means to finance her art studies, she began painting Chinatown subjects which she sent to a New York dealer who readily sold them. After studying portraiture with Wm M. Chase in NYC from 1905-06, she continued her studies for six years in Paris. While in Paris her portrait of her sister was hung in the Paris Salon. Returning to California, she had a studio in Los Angeles for four years and from 1918-27 she lived in San Francisco; during 1927-31 she lived in Greenwich Village in NYC. The years 1932-46 were again spent in San Francisco. Her oils, watercolors, etchings, and colored ceramic figurines were very popular with the general public during her productive years, having been reproduced commercially for postcards, calendars, prints, busts, etc. Hunt was very fond of the artistically-created and individually-named "children" she would never have in real life. After a stroke ended her career, she was taken to the Santa Ana (CA) Rest Home. A spinster, she died there on March 4, 1951.

Member: Laguna Beach AA.

Exh: American WC Society, 1908; Detroit Museum, 1909; Panama Calif. Expo (San Diego), 1915 (gold medal); San Francisco Art Association, 1916.

Works held in Public Places: California Historical Society.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Interview with the artist or his/her family; Women Artists of the American West; Southern California Artists (Nancy Moure); American Art Annual 1909-33; Graphic, 2-1-1913 & 4-24-1915; Los Angeles Times, 7-11-1915 & 11-28-1915; Sunset, Aug. 1921; SF Chronicle, 2-24-1918 & 7;-14-1918 & 1-4-1920 & 2-9-1970; Artists of the American West (Doris Dawdy); California State Library (Sacramento).
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

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