A. R. Valentien, Plant Artist


Albert Robert (A. R.) Valentien was born in 1862 in Cincinnati, Ohio, and showed great artistic talent from an early age. By the age of 19 he was employed at the Rookwood Pottery in Cincinnati, becoming the head decorator there for the next 24 years. In 1908 Valentien and his artist wife Anna Marie moved permanently to San Diego following a family visit to California. They had become enchanted with San Diego’s natural beauty and chose to make it their home.

The same year of their arrival to San Diego, Valentien was commissioned by local philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps to paint all of the wildflowers or plants of California. For the next ten years Valentien traveled from the Mexican border to northern California painting plants along the way. By 1918 he had completed 1,094 sheets depicting 1,500 plant species. 

Unfortunately,  Valentien’s paintings were not published during his lifetime; he passed away in 1925. In 2003 the San Diego Natural History Museum and the Irvine Museum worked together in publishing Plant Portraits: The California Legacy of A.R. Valentien. This collection is a perfect example highlighting California’s biodiversity through art. A.R. Valentien was an artist, not a botanist, but he straddled the divide between art and science, allowing future artists and scientists to learn and educate themselves using his unique collection in various ways.    

To learn more about Plant Portraits: The California Legacy of A.R. Valentien and to see a selection of Mr. Valentien’s watercolor portraits, please visit The Valentien Project.

PHOTO CREDIT: Research Library, SDNHM