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Ernest Clayton Wildflower Images

Submitted by on June 10, 2015 – 8:54 amNo Comment
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california_san-francisco_clayton-botanicalHey, Road Trips Gardeners: if you’r wandering California this summer, consider a stop at the San Francisco Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park for an exhibit of botanical prints from the mid-20th Century.

Thirty wildflower images by Marin County artist Ernest Clayton plus favorites from an exhibition of his work staged in 2013 are on display in the Helen Crocker Russell Library of Horticulture through August 31, 2015.

Here’s what the curators say:

Clayton painted a series of nearly 200 watercolors of the California native plants that he saw on his many walks around Marin County in the period from 1938 to 1952. During his botanical outings, his granddaughters, who have organized this exhibit of prints of his artwork, often accompanied him.

Clayton painted at a time when walking in Marin County revealed “an amazing glory of color and scent surrounding us on every side,” according to his granddaughter Eugenia Herr. Those sights and scents are now largely lost to development, but this exhibit gives some insight into that loss.

Presented in a style reminiscent of the arts and crafts tradition of the early 20th century, the paintings go beyond the usual stylized images of that era and present pictures that are vivid and naturalistic combining the observations of a botanist with the aesthetics of a skilled artist. The prints in the exhibit include images of many well known and valued native plants – California buckeye, matilija poppy, trillium, shooting star to name a few. Each is painted individually like a portrait and all are the same size, making it an attractive and cohesive collection. The images in this exhibit reveal a talented artist who enjoyed and closely observed the native flora growing in the area around his home in San Anselmo.

The collection of work was purchased by the San Francisco Public Library prior to his death. Nancy Praetzel and Eugenia Herr knew that their grandfather’s work was safely kept as an important collection at the San Francisco Public Library, but they wanted to make it possible for more people to see the delightful images. To honor the memory of Ernest Clayton and expose his work to the larger public, they have had prints produced of many of the original works.

Clayton (1868-1956) was born in London, England, and studied at the South Kensington Art School, now the Royal Academy of Art at the British Museum. He came to San Francisco in 1893 and worked as a glass artist. He and his wife moved to Marin County after the earthquake of 1906, and his art glass company was rebuilt in San Francisco where he worked until the 1930s. During World War II, he worked as a draftsman at Marinship in Sausalito. He died at age 88, and in the last 14 years of his life botanized and painted the native plants around his home in San Anselmo, often accompanied by his grandchildren.

The Ernest Clayton exhibit is a display of giclĂ©e prints of images that are part of a collection of almost 200 watercolor studies of California native plants. The History Room of the San Francisco Public Library owns the original collection. Some of the original work is on display at the San Francisco Public Library. The whole collection can be seen in the History Room by appointment. Limited edition framed prints have been exhibited at the Marin County Office of the League of Women Voters, at the headquarters of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and the Mill Valley Library. Profit from the sales of the Ernest Clayton prints are shared with the History Room of the San Francisco Library, the San Anselmo Library and the California Native Plant Society. Production of the prints has been accomplished through the work and dedication of Mr. Clayton’s family, especially his granddaughters, Eugenia Donnelly Herr and Nancy Donnelly Praetzel. A portion of sales from this exhibit benefits the Helen Crocker Russell Library of Horticulture.

(Image of Calochortus luteus, Yellow mariposa courtesy of San Francisco Botanical Garden)

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