Want a nice painting to hang above the sofa? Bruner's was the place to go in Santa Rosa for the first half of the Twentieth Century.

While you could also pick up paint and wallpaper at Clement Bruner's Fourth St. shop, in the store window was displayed fine art, such as paintings by Grace Hudson, the Ukiah artist who produced hundreds of portraits, most depicting local Pomo Indians in native dress. A specialty of hers were too-adorable views of infants such as the one shown at right, sometimes with puppies thrown in for extra sap. Hudson turned out scores of these popular tableaus, and one of these paintings was sold "for a large price" in 1908, becoming a news item in the Press Democrat.

That year Bruner's also displayed oils and watercolors of fruits and flowers commissioned by the Cree Publishing Company of Minneapolis, which were to illustrate a 10-volume encyclopedia on Luther Burbank's "secrets." The newspaper article also claims that the books were in the window which is impossible, as the series was never produced (read update here), thanks to Burbank's disorganization and objections by the Carnegie Institution.

One of the still-life artists mentioned was Carl Dahlgren, nicknamed "The Sunshine Painter" because his landscapes usually included a prominent beam of sunlight. Dahlgren specialized in bucolic, idyllic scenes that could bring no offense; a magazine commented that "In hundreds of homes his canvasses are hung, carrying with them, like silent missionaries, their message of sunshine and happiness to lift the gloom and grief that comes inevitably at times into the most ideal of homes." Reference material on Dahlgren describes him as a San Francisco painter who received a commission from Burbank in 1917, but his associations with Sonoma County nine years earlier are never mentioned; so familiar was he in this area that the Republican Santa Rosa paper referred to him as "Carl Dahlgren of this city." Also mentioned in the newspaper coverage was a Dahlgren landscape painted from the view at Hood Mansion.

A personal comment regarding Grace Hudson: She was a gifted artist and many of her Indian portraits portray the dignity of her subject, but the unctuous "papoose" paintings trouble me greatly. At that exact same time, Pomo and other Indian youth were being forcibly taken from their families by government officials and shipped off to Indian boarding schools that might be a great distance away. (Googling researchers: Here's a hard-to-find list of California Indian Schools.) Once there, it was required that the children abandon their birth language and culture and everything else they held dear. It was one of the most shameful episodes in our history as a nation. In my view, Grace Hudson's infant portraits exploited the children she painted. It might be too much to expect of Hudson to have acknowledged the abuses outright, but it's another thing to make a living by cranking out mawkish images that betrayed a horrible truth.

{RIGHT: Indian children at boarding school - the portrait that Grace Hudson didn't paint. One of the infants painted by Hudson could well be revered Pomo basket weaver Elsie Allen, who was born in 1899 near Cloverdale and was snatched from her grandmother around 1910 and sent to a government Indian school. )


C. M. Bruner, the local art dealer, has had a small canvas by Grace Hudson, the celebrated Indian painter, on exhibition in his window for the past few day, which, though only four or five inches square, sold during race week for a large price.

The subject is an Indian pappoose [sic]. and it is handled in Mrs. Hudson's best style. Mr. Bruner made a special hand-carved frame of oak to go with the picture, the design used being an oak leaf. The purchaser was James B. Smith, a wealth horse man of San Francisco.

Another picture on exhibition at Bruner's that has been attracting attention is a view on the Kearns ranch near Kenwood. This canvas is by Carl Dahlgren, the Danish painter now in Santa Rosa for the purpose of preparing a series of pictures showing Burbank creations. The orchard and meadow are shown in the foreground, in the middle distance is the old homestead, and Mr. Hood towers majestically in the background.

The work of reproducing fruits and flowers in all their various shadings and colorings is very tedious, and for relaxation Mr. Dahlgren has made a number of fine sketches in the vicinity of this city, as well as several in the Guerneville region, some of which are also on exhibition at Bruner's store. Mr. Dahlgren is very enthusiastic over the beautiful scenery in Sonoma county, and says he will put as much of it as possible on canvas before he leaves.

- Press Democrat, August 6, 1908


Two paintings now on exhibition at Bruner's art store are attracting much attention from the people who make it a point to notice such things. One is a large scene near the headwaters of Los Alamos Creek, with Mount Hood in the background. The other is a little sketch on Santa Rosa Creek, not far from town. Both are splendidly done, although the treatment in each is entirely different.

Both canvasses are by Carl Dahlgren, a German painter, who sent here some two or three months ago by the Cree Publishing company to do some of the more important of Burbank's creations from life in oils and watercolors, so that they may be reproduced in colors in the 10 volume history of Burbank and his achievements which the Crees are now getting out.

The general opinion among local art critics is that the two paintings mentioned are among the very best Mr. Bruner has ever had on its exhibition at his store. Mr. Dahlgren has done one or two others in this vicinity, and hopes to find time to do two or three more before leaving. He said yesterday that he had no idea there is so much beautiful scenery in this part of the state. "Oh, in your coundy it iss beautiful, b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l!" said Mr. Dahlgren yesterday, as he have closed his eyes and gazed dreamily out towards the Eastern Hills.

- Press Democrat, June 21, 1908


The Cree-Binner Company, which is engaged in the production of a splendid work on the creations of Luther Burbank, has a display of the books in the window of Bruner's art store, which is certainly attractive. There is a large amount of the oil and water color painting of the various fruits and flowers which have been the subject of Mr. Burbank's efforts, and then several pages of the books with the binding in handsome leather are to be seen. The paintings are by Carl Dahlgren of this city, and C. L. Starks and Mr. Hudson of the east.

Mr. Binner, who is spending the winter here and looking after the interest of the work in this city, states that a widespread interest is being taken in the books and already many applications have been made for its reproduction in foreign countries. The work is to be the most exhaustive ever issued upon the life and works of Mr. Burbank and will be the most modern and complete acquisition to the botanical libraries of the world. The display is well worth seeing and Mr. Binner deserves special credit for the attractive form in which he has made the same. The fine large window affords a particularly good place for the arrangement.

- Santa Rosa Republican, October 24, 1908


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