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 Clara Belle (C.B.) Owen  (1854 - 1955)

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Lived/Active: California/New York/Illinois / France      Known for: portrait, landscape and western theme painting

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Ad Code: 4
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
"Nanny and Child"
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Raised and educated in McHenry, Illinois, Clara Belle Owen was a painter who signed her work as C.B. Owen. She began painting portraits while still a teenager and at age 17 did an oil painting, Cribbage Players, of her parents, Oliver William and Harriet Holmes Owen. From that time she did paintings of other family members and of notable persons such as Lillian Russell, the actress, and Senator John Percival Jones of Nevada.

She was largely self taught, although she studied in Chicago with Susan Hely St. John and in late 1880 went to Europe with her family where she painted in Paris at the Louvre and Luxembourg Museum and Gardens, choosing not to enroll in an atelier. Of being at the museums, she wrote to her mother in Chicago that "The people I saw copying at the Louvre were not doing so wonderfully well. I can do better than they do, I know. . . ." (McCullough) She especially liked working at the Gardens, writing back that she was too busy to be homesick, and that the Luxembourg Museum was so welcoming.  It was kept warm, furnished artists with easels and stools, and took care of the artwork in progress for artists. She was amazed that they "charge nothing for it, except what one has a mind to give." (McCullough)

From 1882 until the 1920s, she lived mostly in New York City, with occasional trips to Florida and to Los Angeles to visit friends from her hometown of McHenry.  She settled in Pasadena, California in 1925, and from there often visited the summer home at Lake Tahoe of Lora Knight, a Chicago philanthropist.

In New York, Owen had exhibited with the National Academy of Design as early as 1883 and also from 1884 to 1887 and 1896 and 1902. During her later years, she turned to western themes, and in 1890 won a California State Fair prize for an oil study of animals. Other works of that time period were Indian Corn, San Gabriel and On a California Ranch. Visiting the Pacific Northwest, she completed a large logging scene painting.

She continued painting, especially enjoying the California landscape, but at age 88, failing eyesight ended her ability to paint. She died in Pasadena in 1955.  Her work is in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Phil Kovinick and Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick, Women Artists of the American West, pp. 237
David McCullough, The Greater Journey, p. 412

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in McHenry, IL on Dec. 9, 1854, Clara Belle Owen was a self-taught artist except for a brief period of study in Chicago and Paris. She became one of Los Angeles' earliest artists, having moved there in 1888.

After 1891 she lived in New York City and Florida until 1925 when she returned to California. Settling in Pasadena, she continued to paint until 1943 when her eyesight failed.

 Her work includes full-size portraits, miniatures on ivory, and landscapes.

A spinster, she died in Los Angeles on Oct. 21, 1955.

Exhibiiton: California State Fair, 1890 (prize); Bryson Block (LA), 1891; Sil-Fifth Gallery (NYC), 1899, 1902; Pasadena Art Fair, 1952.

St Petersburg (FL) Museum.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
City Directory; Census; American Art Annual 1901; Women Artists of the American West; Death record; Pasadena Star News, 10-21-1952 (obituary).
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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