Alice Brown Chittenden

Information and Paintings

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Alice B. Chittenden: October 14, 1859 – October 13, 1944

Born in New York State, brought to San Francisco at the age of two months.

Educated in the San Francisco Public Schools.

Entered the School of Design (later to be known as the California School of Fine Arts) in 1878. School then located in a loft over the California Market on Pine Street. Her teacher was Virgil Williams, who was the only instructor in the school at that time. (As classes grew, Mrs. Williams assisted, and then Yelland came from New York, taking over cast drawing and landscape.) Began exhibiting portraits in crayon after two years’ study. After another year’s study in painting, began exhibiting in Art Association Annuals.

In 1897 was appointed as teacher in the Saturday Class of the Art School, located at that time in the Mark Hopkins Mansion.
Was an early member of the School Board and of the San Francisco Art Association: also, one of the first women to serve as juror in Art Association shows.

When the California School of Fine Arts became affiliated with the University of California she automatically became the first woman member of the U.C. faculty.

Best known for her flower paintings; also a popular portrait artist, many of these done in pastel crayon. Her painting of Bishop Nichols hangs in the Divinity School  of Grace Cathedral. Her portraits of Judge and Mrs. John H. Boalt were hung in Boalt Hall of Law on the U.C. campus (1928). The California Society of Pioneers have her portraits of Sutter, Marshall and Lick, which she did from old photographs.

From her visits to a sister in Maine and from a trip to Europe (1908) she brought back countless landscapes, flowers, and figure paintings.

Exhibited at National Academy of Design in New York and the Salon of Society of Artistes François in Paris. Washington D.C. has her painting of Mission Dolores in the California room of the centennial hall (a request of the Daughters of the American Revolution.)

Some awards she received:

  • Gold medal for Flower Painting: San Francisco Exposition of Arts and Industries, 1891.
  • Two Silver Medals: California State Fair, 1891-92
  • Silver Medal: San Francisco Industrial Exposition, 1893
  • Silver Medal: California Mid Winter International Exposition, 1894
  • Silver Medal: World Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1902-03
  • Silver Medal: Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition of Seattle, 1909
  • Silver Medal: Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition of Portland, 1905

California Wildflower collection: she considered her greatest work. Began when she was a young woman in her twenties and continued throughout her lifetime. Many specimens she gathered herself, making long trips into the Sierras or the desert of Southern California. Some flowers were too delicate to be transported and had to be painted where they grew. These studies are brilliantly painted in oils on especially treated paper with varying backgrounds, each suited to the particular flower. The botanical names, which appear along with the common titles on the mount of each painting, have been added by Miss Alice Eastwood, who was curator of botany at the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. There are over 300 of these paintings. (Still in the possession of the family. Several groups are interested – the University of California and Stanford botanical departments and the Academy of Sciences. But the problem of raising the money to buy such a collection is ever present. {The collection was sold to pay for the care of Alice Chittenden’s daughter, Miriam Cronier.})

The last public exhibit of the wildflower collection was made in 1941 when a reception was given to honor her at the time of her retirement from teaching her Saturday Class at the Art School (1897-1941).

Some portraits she did were:

Miss Eliza D. Keith Mrs. Irving Scott  Captain Brown
Mrs. Weihe
Mrs. Selfridge  
Miss Olga Meyer
Miss Olympia Goldaracena 
Mrs. J. H. Meyer
Miss Ethel Jackson
Henry Van Winkle
Antoine Borel





including portraits of the children of:

Dr. Barkan 
William Romaine
  S. W. Gibbs
C. A. Hawkins    




Her flower paintings were often named:

La France Roses
La Marque Roses Duchesse de Brabant A Path of Roses




She did a few beach scenes of children playing in the sand.

Her Marin landscapes and Peninsula flower gardens were all done while visiting her many friends in those areas. It would seem she never traveled without her sketching gear.


Source: California Historical Society