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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Oscar Maurer

Dates:  1871 - 1965
Born:  US, NY, New York
Died:  US, CA, Berkeley
Active:  US
Pictorialist and poet based in California.
Oakland Museum of California has material on him, including cloud studies, autochromes and ephemera, that was added into the collection by Therese Heyman.

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Oscar Maurer
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)

Born in New York, Oscar Maurer was the nephew of Currier and Ives artist Louis Maurer and cousin of modernist painter Alfred Maurer. In 1886, Oscarís family moved to San Francisco, and shortly thereafter he began studying chemistry and physics at the University of California, Berkeley. Commencing in 1891, he worked for seven years as a salesman for the paint company where his father was also employed.
Maurer began using a camera the year he arrived in California, and was listed as a photographer in the 1899 San Francisco city directory. In late 1900, he established a portrait studio with William E. Dassonville, who shared Maurerís artistic proclivities. That same year, he made his first appearance in a national exhibition, when his work was included in the First Chicago Photographic Salon.
Beginning with this success in 1900, Maurer became active as a pictorialist in both the Bay Area and on the national scene for most of the rest of the decade. In San Francisco, he exhibited in at least the first three salons (1901-1903), and wrote a few articles for Camera Craft, Californiaís only nationally distributed photographic monthly. In 1902, Alfred Stieglitz, in New York, featured one of Maurerís images as a photogravure in the July 1902 issue of Camera Notes, and included his work in the premiere exhibition of the Photo-Secession, making him one of the few West Coast members of this elite group of artistic photographers.
Around this time, Maurerís pictures appeared in other periodicals and exhibitions. Among them were the Photographic Times, Englandís Photograms of the Year, and the American Annual of Photography, the latter for which he also wrote an article in 1908. Salons that accepted his work were presented in Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and Philadelphia, along with three American Photographic Salons, which traveled the country. In June 1908, he was privileged to have a one-person exhibition of recent work at the California Camera Club in San Francisco.
In 1905, Maurer married Margaret Robinson, and the couple became active in the Berkeley artistic social scene. He briefly shared a San Francisco studio with Arnold Genthe, which was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, the aftermath of which both Genthe and Maurer documented. The next year, Maurer hired the soon-to-be-sought-after architect Bernhard Maybeck to build him a Berkeley studio, a small structure that today has landmark status. There, Maurer continued to make his living producing portraits and illustrations for popular magazines such as Craftsman, Everybodyís, and Sunset. In 1911, four of his soft-focus landscapes appeared (one as the frontispiece) in the well-designed book California the Beautiful: Camera Studies by California Artists with Selections in Prose and Verse by Western Writers, issued by the high-end publisher Paul Elder.
Around 1914, Maurer moved south to Del Mar, only to relocate to Los Angeles three years later. After a decade-long hiatus, he resumed his interest in pictorial photography in 1916, when he successfully sent work to the prestigious Pittsburgh Salon of National Photographic Art. For the next fifteen years, his pictures were also seen in pictorial exhibitions in Buffalo, London (Royal Photographic Society), Los Angeles, Philadelphia (John Wanamaker department store), and Toronto. In 1920, one of his Mexican scenes was reproduced in the annual of the Pictorial Photographers of America.
Maurer continued to photograph professionally at least through the 1930s; in the mid-1920s, he advertised his services in home, garden, and portrait work. For a few years he had a studio in an Oakland department store, but in 1931 reestablished his own workspace. In 1939, he photographed the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco. Oscar Maurer died in Berkeley, in 1965, at ninety-four. 
Christian A. Peterson Pictorial Photography at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Christian A. Peterson: Privately printed, 2012) 
This biography is courtesy and copyright of Christian Peterson and is included here with permission. 
Date last updated: 1 June 2013. 
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
If you find any errors please email us details so they can be corrected as soon as possible.

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Oscar Maurer Studio, 1772 Le Roy Avenue, Berkeley, CA ... 
Article by Daniela Thompson on the studio of Oscar Maurer. 
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