Alice Brown Chittenden was an early California artist who lived from 1859 to 1944. She lived in San Francisco all of her life. She was briefly married to Charles P. Overton in 1886 and had one daughter Miriam Cronier (nee Chittenden) and one granddaughter Alice Virginia Larribeau (nee Cronier). Click here to see the Wikipedia article about her.
Her parents settled in San Francisco in 1858. Her mother made the long trip to Brockport, New York to await Alice's birth because she felt that San Francisco was "no fit" place for her to deliver a baby. She returned to San Francisco with her two month old infant by sailing to Panama, crossing the Isthmus by train, and connecting with another ship.
Alice showed her artistic talent early. She made a perfect drawing of a rose at the age of five. After graduating from Denman Grammar School in 1876 winning a silver medal for being at the top of her class, she studied drawing and painting under Virgil Williams at the Art School. Her portraits, landscapes, and flower studies were popular in the California art world and she exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1908.
She was an instructor at the California School of Fine Arts for almost 50 years. The "Art School" changed names and associations several times during this period. At one time it was affiliated with the University of California, which made Alice Chittenden the first woman faculty member of the University of California. This school is now known as the San Francisco Art Institute. It has contributed papers to this web site that include, articles from its Bulletin dated September 1938, June-July 1941, and October-November 1941. It also provided an article published in August 1941 from the Club Magazine of the Women's City Club of San Francisco. It also provided the announcement for an exhibit of her wildflower paintings shown at the left along with the response to a query from the Huntington Library and some letters that she wrote to the school.
She had a lifetime project of making botanical studies of California wildflowers, which resulted in 256 paintings identified by both popular and botanical names. Her mentor in this effort was Alice Eastwood, Curator of Botany at the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. The two trunks containing these paintings were stored in the basement of the Academy when World War II broke out. They were sold to the Elizabeth Hay Bechtel in the 1960s. A few of these botanical studies of California wildflowers can be seen on this web site. An inventory is also available on this web site.
The local California newspapers wrote numerous articles about her. You can see links to news articles from a list provided by the California Historical Society. There is an additional article from 1885. Her daughter contested her father's will in 1917. You can see the articles from the San Francisco Examiner and the San Francisco Chronicle covering this trial. Her husband, Charles P. Overton, was vice president and manager of the Union Fish Company, which is still in business today. The Union Fish Company provided some of its corporate papers mentioning Charles P. Overton including an article he wrote, corporate minutes following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, and corporate minutes following his death in 1914..
The California Historical Society held an exhibit of these botanical studies in 1965 before they were sold. It issued a press release and developed a profile of Alice B. Chittenden. After the paintings were sold, Elizabeth Hay Bechtel arranged for them to be shown at the Marin Art and Garden Center in 1971. There is a letter from John Thomas Howell of the California Academy of Sciences to Mrs. Bechtel along with a note describing his experiences with these paintings.
More information about her life is available in a remembrance written by her granddaughter, Alice Virginia Larribeau (nee Cronier) can be seen by clicking here. You can also see photos of Alice B. Chittenden by clicking here.
Click here to see excerpts from her scrapbook, which was donated to the Smithsonian by her granddaughter. It includes a number of newspaper articles about her as well as her marriage certificate. She won silver medals in 1875 and 1878 and a gold medal in 1891.
Click at the links below to see artwork by Alice B. Chittenden:
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I would like to thank the California Historical Society for its support of its web sites and for images and information about Alice B. Chittenden that it has contributed.