Arthur Frank Mathews

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Arthur Frank Mathews
Arthur F. Mathews - Spring Dance - Google Art Project.jpg
Spring Dance
Arthur Frank Mathews

(1860-10-01)October 1, 1860
DiedFebruary 19, 1945(1945-02-19) (aged 84)
San Francisco, California, U.S.
EducationSan Francisco School of Design, Académie Julian
Known forPainting
MovementArts and Crafts Movement, Art Nouveau, Tonalism
AwardsGrand Gold Medal, Académie Julian, 1886;Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement in Painting, American Institute of Architects, 1923

Arthur F. Mathews (October 1, 1860 – February 19, 1945) was an American Tonalist painter who was one of the founders of the American Arts and Crafts Movement. Trained as an architect and artist, he and his wife Lucia Kleinhans Mathews had a significant effect on the evolution of Californian art in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His students include Granville Redmond, Xavier Martinez, Armin Hansen, Percy Gray, Gottardo Piazzoni, Ralph Stackpole, Mary Colter, Maynard Dixon, Rinaldo Cuneo and Francis McComas.[1][2][3][4][5]

Early years[edit]

Mathews was born in Markesan, Wisconsin, and lived there until he was six years old. His father, Julius Mathews, was an architect and moved the family to San Francisco in 1866.[citation needed] Like his brothers Walter and Edgar, Mathews learned architecture from his father.[citation needed]

He then went on and studied painting at the California School of Design (later called San Francisco Art Institute), where he was influenced by Virgil Macey Williams.[citation needed] In San Francisco he also worked as a designer and illustrator at a lithography shop.[when?][citation needed] He studied art in Paris at the Académie Julian from 1885 to 1889, where he was influenced by the academic classicism of his teachers Gustave Boulanger and Jules Lefebvre, the tonalism of James Abbott McNeill Whistler, and the symbolism of Pierre Puvis de Chavannes.[citation needed]

Life in San Francisco[edit]

Upon his return from Paris, Mathews taught life classes at the San Francisco Art Students League and the California School of Design.[citation needed] He became director of the latter in 1890, and in 1894, married Lucia Kleinhans, one of his art students.[1] Although he was occasionally criticized for his autocratic approach to teaching, which was based on the French paradigm for the Barbizon school, he vigorously supported the presence of female students at the School of Design and published in 1891 a rebuttal to Emil Carlsen, a former Director of the school, who declared that women pupils were inferior and indifferent students.[citation needed] In 1904 the San Francisco District Attorney compelled Mathews, in his capacity as the school's Director, to investigate charges brought by Albert DeRome that he was seriously injured in a hazing ritual devised by fellow student (and later renowned artist) Armin Hansen.[6] He continued to teach there until shortly after the great 1906 San Francisco earthquake.[citation needed][7]

Following the earthquake, he and his wife Lucia collaborated with the entrepreneur John Zeile to open the Furniture Shop in San Francisco.[citation needed][8] There he could unleash his combined skills as a craftsman, designer and painter. Mathews and Zeile also established Philopolis Press and published the monthly Philopolis magazine, which promoted Arts and Crafts aesthetics in the rebuilding of the city.[citation needed][9] Among his many mural commissions was a twelve-panel series in the State Capitol Building in Sacramento.[citation needed][10] Other major commissions included murals for the Oakland Public Library, the Mechanics' Institute Library, the Lane Medical Library at Stanford University's medical school campus in San Francisco, the Supreme Court Chambers of the California Supreme Court Building in San Francisco, and the Court of Palms at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.[citation needed][11] The Mathews mural Vision of Saint Francis, originally created for the Savings Union Bank in San Francisco, is now in the collection of the Crocker Art Museum.[citation needed][12]

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries Mathews and his wife frequently sketched on the Monterey Peninsula and in 1907 he helped organize the inaugural exhibition at the Hotel Del Monte Art Gallery.[citation needed] At this time Mathews joined William Keith in opposing the restoration of the Spanish missions in California, which Edwin Deakin vigorously campaigned to restore as functioning religious communities.[6]

Death and legacy[edit]

He died at his home in San Francisco in 1945.[13]

Mathews was a master of many media: oil painting, watercolor, pastel, gouache and fresco.[citation needed] He and Lucia designed detailed interior decoration schemes in what became known as the California Decorative Style.[citation needed] They created a variety of furniture, boxes, carved and painted picture frames and many other decorative objects, and even large stained glass windows.[citation needed]

Museum collections[edit]

The Vision of Saint Francis

Afternoon Among the Cypress in the permanent collection of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art is typical of Mathews' landscape paintings of the Monterey Peninsula. The Grape (The Wine Maker) at the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco is one of his allegorical paintings representing early California. Youth at the Oakland Museum of California and Spring Dance at the Smithsonian American Art Museum are two of his many paintings of dancing female figures in semi-classical attire. His work is extensively represented in the Oakland Museum of California.[citation needed][14]

Mathews' work is in the following major museums:[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b Berke, Arnold; Alexander Vertikoff (2002). Mary Colter, architect of the Southwest. Princeton Architectural Press. pp. 28–29. ISBN 1-56898-295-X. Retrieved April 17, 2010.
  2. ^ Huntington, David C.; Detroit Institute of Arts (1983). The quest for unity: American art between world's fairs, 1876–1893. Detroit Institute of Arts. pp. 117–118. ISBN 0-89558-098-5.
  3. ^ Jones, Harvey (1980). Mathews: masterpieces of the California decorative style. Oakland Museum.
  4. ^ Jones, Harvey (2006). The art of Arthur and Lucia Mathews. Pomegranate. ISBN 0-7649-3549-6.
  5. ^ Zellman, Michael David (1986). 1842–1874. American Art Analog. Vol. 2. Chelsea House Publishers in association with American Art Analog. p. 575. ISBN 1-55546-002-X.
  6. ^ a b Edwards, Robert W. (2012). Jennie V. Cannon: The Untold History of the Carmel and Berkeley Art Colonies, Vol. 1. Oakland, Calif.: East Bay Heritage Project. pp. 45–46, 66, 68, 115, 175, 374, 377, 424ff, 690. ISBN 9781467545679. An online facsimile of the entire text of Vol. 1 is posted on the Traditional Fine Arts Organization website.
  7. ^ Powers, Laura (June 30, 1906). "Dean Mathews Resigns Place". The San Francisco Call.
  8. ^ Jones, Harvey (2006). The Art of Arthur and Lucia Mathews. Pomegranate Communications. pp. 17–18. ISBN 0-7649-3549-6.
  9. ^ Jones, Harvey (2006). The Art of Arthur and Lucia Mathews. Pomegranate Communications. pp. 247–250. ISBN 0-7649-3549-6.
  10. ^ Jones, Harvey (2006). The Art of Arthur and Lucia Mathews. Pomegranate Communications. pp. 80–90. ISBN 0-7649-3549-6.
  11. ^ Jones, Harvey (2006). The Art of Arthur and Lucia Mathews. Pomegranate Communications. pp. 69–96. ISBN 0-7649-3549-6.
  12. ^ Jones, Harvey (2006). The Art of Arthur and Lucia Mathews. Pomegranate Communications. pp. 76–78. ISBN 0-7649-3549-6.
  13. ^ "Funeral Set for S. F. Muralist". Oakland Tribune. February 21, 1945. p. 13. Retrieved March 23, 2018 – via open access
  14. ^ Jones, Harvey (1985). Mathews: Masterpieces of the California Decorative Style. Gibbs M. Smith, Inc. pp. 100–110.

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