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Alexander Harmer

Birth place or City of origin: Newark
State of origin: NJ
Last known City: Santa Barbara
Last known State: CA
Start/Birth date: 1856
Death/End date: 1925

Born in Newark, New Jersey, Alexander Harmer "is considered Southern California's first great painter of the 19th century" (Edan Hughes).

He began painting as a child, and at age 13 left home and wandered to Lincoln, Nebraska, where he spent three years before joining the army in Cincinnati, Ohio. Stationed in California for two years, he got a discharge to study art at the Pennsylvania School of Fine Arts in Philadelphia with Thomas Eakins and Thomas Anshutz.

In 1881, to get west to paint Indians, he re-enlisted in the Army and was assigned cavalry duty in Arizona. His expeditions against Geronimo and the Apaches earned him the title "Artist of the Apaches," and his illustrations were in Harper's Weekly. He took his field sketches and notes of the Apaches, and returned to the Pennsylvania Academy where he produced a series of oil paintings and watercolors.

In the 1890s, he settled in Santa Barbara, and began painting portraits and genre scenes depicting 19th century California during the mission era when Mexico ruled California. He married into one of the old families of the area. His adobe gallery and home on De La Guerra Plaza was a popular place for artists.

Edan Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940
Peggy and Harold Samuels, Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West


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