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Alice Ellen Klauber (1871-1951)

aliceklauberBorn in San Diego, California, May 19, 1871; died in Lemon Grove, California, July 5, 1951.

Alice’s parents, Abraham and Theresa (Epstein) Klauber, moved to San Diego in 1869, where her father soon became a prominent merchant. In order to give his children a better education, Abraham took his family to San Francisco in 1885. They returned to San Diego in 1892. While in San Francisco, Alice began her art education at the Art Students’ League of that city. Later, her studies included painting under Hans Hoffmann and William Merritt Chase.

In 1907, Klauber studied with Robert Henri in Spain. Continuing to correspond with Henri, she convinced him to visit San Diego in 1914. For the 1915 Panama California Exposition, Klauber, who had been named chairman of the art department, Henri, and Dr. Edgar Hewett, director of exhibitions, pulled together an exhibition of work by some of America’s foremost contemporary artists. Among those who exhibited were George Luks, Maurice Prendergast, William Glackens, John Sloan; Childe Hassam, George Bellows, and of course Henri. This was the first time San Diego had been exposed to a major exhibition of contemporary American art.

Klauber was affiliated with a number of art organizations and had memberships in the San Diego Art Association, San Diego Art Guild; La Jolla Art Association, and Los Angeles Watercolor Club. With her brother-in-law Julius Wangenheim, she was one of the main forces behind the founding of the Fine Arts Society of San Diego in 1926. She also helped support the Fine Arts Society financially and with donations of art including works on paper by Edward Burne-Jones, Henri Matisse, Kathe Kollwitz and Pablo Picasso. Her greatest interest, however, was in oriental art, and she was one of the founders of the Asiatic Arts Committee. She was named honorary curator of oriental art at the Fine Arts Gallery in 1940, and donated to it important Japanese block prints by Utamaro, Hokusai and Hiroshige, among others.

In spite of her many and various cultural activities, Klauber still had time to paint. She exhibited frequently in Southern California, particularly during the 1920s and 1930s, occasionally winning awards. Her work was exhibited at the Panama California International Exposition in 1916, and also at the California Pacific International Exposition in 1935. In addition to her painting, she designed the interiors of the Persimmon Room for the 1915 fair, the Community Center in Balboa Park, and YWCA. For the Wednesday Club, she designed the interior of their club house as well as their logo depicting a caravel. She also designed bookplates for many prominent San Diegans, including members of the Burnham, Garrettson, Klauber, Marston, Sweet and Wangenheim families. In 1928, a book of her poems was published by the Denrich Press in Chula Vista.

Alice Klauber probably did more for the cultural advancement of San Diego than any other individual, except perhaps Julius Wangenheim, with whom she often collaborated. She gave assistance and encouragement to many artists and art organizations, and always strove for aesthetic excellence. Her own paintings show unmistakable talent that perhaps was never allowed to fully develop due to her many other interests and commitments. “The least of His reporters I -” begins one of her poems, and demonstrates the lack of egoism evident in all of her works. Her paintings are rarely signed.

[excerpted from Kamerling, Bruce. “Painting Ladies: Some Early San Diego Women Artists.” The Journal of San Diego History 32.3 (Summer 1986): 168-170.]

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