Monday, February 11, 2013

Elizabeth Strong, The Rosa Bonheur of America

Elizabeth Strong
Precious Moments
ca. 1887
Oil on canvas
 61 ½ x 46 ¼  inches

Elizabeth Strong was an American artist who specialized in the painting of animals along with portraits, landscapes, and seascapes-primarily of the Monterey Penninsula. Born in Hartford Connecticut in February 1854, Strong spent the first four years of her life in Honolulu, Hawaii, where her father was pastor of the Fort Street Church.

In 1858, the family settled in Oakland, California where she was tutored at home by her father. At 18 years old, Strong, smothered by her father's dictatorial rule, left home and entered high school as a freshman. Strong quickly completed her high school education on her own. She was first exposed to art during her brief time spent in public school where she discovered her talent for drawing. That interest led to her exploration of watercolor and she began to paint wildflowers that she sold through local stores.

While studying art privately, Strong was introduced to the work of Rosa Bonheur, the French Realist painter who was an animalière, an artist who focused specifically on painting animals in subperb detail. Bonheur was the inspiration for the direction in which Strong's career was determined.    

Elizabeth Strong
English Setter with Terrier
ca. 1885
Oil on canvas/board
21 x 25 1/2 inches

Strong continued to study while she painted. She attended the California School of Design in San Francisco where she recieved the Alvord Diploma for Drawing in 1875 and the Alvord Gold Medal in the same category in 1876. [1] Strong accumulated enough money from the sale of pictures and pets of wealthy patrons to fulfill her dream to study abroad-she went to Paris. During her eight year sojourn in France, she studied further with animal painter Emil van Marcke and ran a school of her own.

Elizabeth Strong
Paris Painting
Oil on Canvas
n. d.

After her return to the United States, Strong studied at the Art Students League in New York City under William Merritt Chase before returning to Paris where she lived until 1905. [2] While there, exhibited often at the prestigious Paris Salon. From Paris, she returned to California and settled in Berkeley in 1905 when she placed 34 of her paintings done in Europe on display in San Francisco. The destruction of her work in the earthquake and fire of that year devastated her. Strong went to Boston where she taught at a girls school in the area before returning to Berkeley in 1907. After settling on the Monterey Peninsula in Carmel, she painted many more landscapes and seascapes and, in the mid-1930s, sketched in the Yosemite Valley. [3]Strong helped in the formation of the Carmel Art Association in 1927, and was active in the local art scene until her death in Carmel on October 30, 1941.

Elizabeth Strong
Fog Lifting on the Coast
Oil on Canvas
14 x 18 1/2 inches

Elizabeth Strong
Carmel River
Oil on canvas
ca. 1911
no size provided

 Member: SFAA; Sketch Club (SF); Carmel AA (cofounder); Carmel Arts & Crafts Club. Exh: SFAA, 1875-1912; Mechanics' Inst. (SF), 1875-79; Calif. Midwinter Expo, 1894; Calif. State Fair, 1894, 1930, 1935; Paris Salon, 1901; Berkeley AA, 1908; Sketch Club, 1909; Alaska-Yukon Expo (Seattle), 1909 (silver medal); Del Monte Art Gallery, 1910.  Examples of her work are exhibited in the Monterey Peninsula Museum. [4]


1.Kovinick, Phil and Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick. An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998), 295.2. Select Fine Art, Twentieth Century European and American Paintings. (accessed February 11, 2013).
3. Kovnick, 295.
4. Select Fine Art.

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