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Lake Tahoe, circa 1860's

Lake Tahoe, circa 1860's

Frederick Butman (1820 – 1871)

Born in Bangor, ME in 1820, Frederick Butman operated an apothecary shop in Gardiner, ME and helped found the local gas and water company. Without the benefit of instruction, he began to paint figure studies. He arrived in San Francisco in 1857 and exhibited the earliest known painting of Yosemite Valley at the Mechanics’ Institute Fair.

One of the first California artists to devote himself exclusively to landscapes, as well as Yosemite, he also worked in Oregon’s Columbia River area and Washington in the 1860s. He exhibited in San Francisco a variety of mountain scenes including views of Mt Shasta, Mt Hood, and Lake Tahoe.

Returning to the East in 1867, he exhibited these scenes to an enthusiastic audience. A trip was made to Europe where he sketched in France, the Pyranees, and Swiss Alps before returning to San Francisco in 1869. He painted about 80 paintings in California and received high praise from the local press.

His work commanded large sums of money during his lifetime. Butman was just beginning to do some of his finest work when he returned to Maine for a family visit and died unexpectedly in Gardiner on July 26, 1871.

Mechanics’ Institute (SF), 1857-84
California State Fair, 1859-61
California Art Union, 1865
National Academy of Design, 1867
Pennsylvania Academy, 1868
San Francisco Art Association, 1872

Oakland Museum
Bancroft Library and UC Museum (Berkeley)
Society of California Pioneers;
California Historical Society

Edan Hughes, “Artists in California, 1786-1940″
New York Historical Society’s Dictionary of Artists in America (Groce, George C. and David H. Wallace); Artists of the American West (Samuels); Artists of the American West (Doris Dawdy); California State Library (Sacramento); First 100 Years of Painting in California (J. Van Nostrand); Pacific Monthly, July 1863; Gardiner Home Journal, 7-26-1871 and SF Daily Alta, 8-16-1871 (obits).

Biography from the Archives of AskART