Publication Date

Summer 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art and Art History


Beverly Grindstaff


Academie Julian, Arthur Mathews, California painting, Feminism, New Woman, Sketch Club

Subject Areas

Art history; American history; Gender studies


This thesis presents the first feminist reading of Arthur F. Mathews (1860-1945), a once celebrated academic painter, life-drawing instructor, and arts administrator in San Francisco. Using a case study approach, it contributes original research to existing scholarship on Mathews, as well as the history of art education, the rise of women artists, and male feminism in the United States. By synthesizing primary sources from the 1890s related to Arthur and Lucia Mathews, the Académie Julian, the San Francisco School of Design, the San Francisco Sketch Club, and the San Francisco Commission for the Suppression of Vice, it presents new insights and suggests directions for further research.

In focusing primarily on documents from the 1890s that constitute Mathews’s ‘defense’ of women artists, this thesis diverges from existing scholarship that emphasizes or discusses Mathews as the progenitor of the “California Decorative” style or as a “California Arts and Crafts” designer. Instead, it engages with context largely missing from existing scholarship on Mathews, namely his connection to the rise of women artists in San Francisco. Using feminist methodology and a contemporary definition of the “New Man” presented in a Women’s Suffrage campaign lecture in San Francisco in 1896, Mathews and his actions in defense of women are evaluated for the qualities suffragists identified as the ideal partner for the “New Woman” in the twentieth century. His ‘co-operation’ with and ‘defense’ of women artists toward a more moral and just relationship with women exemplifies what we can define as “New Man” feminism.