Claudine Chalmers moved from her native Cannes, France, to California after graduate studies at the University of Nice. She developed a great interest in the history of her adoptive Golden State while traveling around the Sierras with her family. In 1991, while working freelance for Random House’s textbook division, she turned the information unearthed in the course of her ten-year research into a lively 800-page PHD dissertation on the participation of the numerous, colorful French nationals who traveled to San Francisco during the Gold rush.
Her fascination with early California Art led her to turn an appendix in her thesis into Splendide Californie! Impressions of the Golden State by French Artists, an art book magnificently produced by the Book Club of California which received a great review in the Los Angeles Times, and the Commonwealth Club’s 2001 Silver Award. San Francisco’s California Historical Society and Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum hosted an exhibit based on her book, which was voted best of the year by the Sacramento Bee.
Her many articles on the subject appeared over the years in the California Historical Quarterly, Catalog of Antiques and Fine Arts, Ancestry Magazine, the Californians, as well as quarterlies in France. She had a spot in a French documentary for the prestigious show Thalassa, another in a Quebec production entitled “L’Aventure Francaise.”
After calling Mill Valley her home for many years, Chalmers followed this quest to the Sierra foothills where she finds fresh inspiration to continue chronicling the compelling stories of California’s boisterous early days, and the adventures of the French pioneers and artists who preceded her to California so long ago. She was recently knighted for her work by the French Ministry of Culture as a Chevalier des Arts et de la Culture.
Her latest books include three Arcadia books, Early Mill Valley, Grass Valley, and French San Francisco, and three art books. The first of these was beautifully printed last fall by the Book Club of California: “Paul Frenzeny’s Chinatown Sketches, An artist’s fascination with San Francisco’s Chinese Quarter.”
Claudine Chalmers’ newest book: “Chronicling the West for Harper’s”
“Chronicling the West for Harpers” published by the University of Oklahoma Press’s Charles M. Russell Center Series on Art and Photography of the American West, was just released this fall.
The opening of the West after the Civil War drew a flood of Americans and
emigrants to the frontier. Among the liveliest records of this western march of the 1870s is the series of prints collected for the first time in this book. Chronicling the West for Harper’s showcases 100 illustrations made for the magazine by French artists Paul Frenzeny and Jules Tavernier on a cross-country assignment in 1873 and 1874. The pair—“Frenzeny & Tavernier,” as they signed their work—documented the newly accessible territories, their diverse inhabitants, and the changing frontier.
Chalmers’ next book will be the co-written catalog to a retrospective of the Western paintings of Parisian artist Jules Tavernier for a February 2014 exhibit at the Crocker Art Museum. If you love Western Art, stay tuned!