Albert Robert Valentien
Robert Valentien was born in 1862 in Cincinnati and showed great
artistic talent from an early age. By the age of 19 he was employed
at the Rookwood Pottery in Cincinnati, and he became the head decorator
there, staying for 24 years. He created many beautiful ceramic pieces
owned by such museums as the Victoria and Albert Museum (London),
the Museum of Decorative Arts (Copenhagen), the National Museum
(Sevres), and many others. In 1900 he received the gold medal at
the Paris Exposition for his work at Rookwood. His works in ceramics,
as well as his paintings and still-lifes, are considered very valuable
In 1884 Rookwood hired Anna Marie Bookprinter,
an artist and sculptor in her own right, and three years later,
Anna and Albert married. As Rookwood employees, Anna and Albert
traveled to Europe in 1899 to receive further art training and to
prepare the Rookwood Pottery exhibit for the Paris Exposition of
1900. During a visit to the Black Forest in Germany, while Albert
was recuperating from an illness, he began to paint the wildflowers
of the region, which proved to be a turning point in his career.
Because they had heard about the natural beauty
of California, they traveled west in 1903 to visit Anna's brother
near San Diego. Over the next eight months, Valentien painted 150
species of plants, and both artists fell in love with the area.
They decided to resign from Rookwood, and moved permanently to San
Diego in 1908.
Shortly after they arrived, Ellen Browning Scripps,
a prominent San Diego philanthropist with an interest in natural
history, commissioned Valentien to take on a monumental task-the
painting of all the wildflowers or plants of California. He began
work in 1908, and for the next ten years traveled all over the state,
from the Mexican border, to the northern California coast, collecting
in chaparral, desert, and mountains, by rivers, in canyons, and
along the beaches and salt marshes. California at this time offered
an unspoiled wealth of incredibly diverse plants and animals for
an artist to study and depict. Valentien always painted from fresh
specimens, and by 1918 had completed 1094 sheets that depicted 1500
species altogether. Although he had initially focused on the wildflowers,
he enlarged his scope to include trees, grasses, and ferns as well.
His exquisite paintings were botanically accurate and meticulous
in their execution, yet breathtakingly vibrant and full of spontaneity.
Valentien had assumed that his work would be
published at its completion, but Miss Scripps decided that publication
would be too costly, and although attempts were made to get some
of the paintings included in various formats, his work was never
published. This obviously was a grave disappointment to the artist.
Valentien began to paint more landscapes in oil and explored other
subjects. He died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 1925.
courtesy of San Diego Historical Society.
SDNHM Home | Search | Site Index | Contact Curator
© San Diego Natural History Museum