Felix Mattei (left) and Geraldine Graham Dabney drawn by Clarence Mattei | Credit: SB Historical Museum

Felix Mattei, the Swiss-Italian immigrant who founded the stagecoach stop Mattei’s Tavern in 1886, wasn’t the only family member to make his mark on our community. His son Clarence Mattei (1883-1945) was a sought-after portrait artist (portraitist) who captured images of many luminaries on the local, national, and international stages of that time. 

T. M. Storke by Clarence Mattei | Credit: SB Historical Musem

An exhibition currently on view through May at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, Clarence Mattei: Portrait of a Community, spotlights his work in oil, pen, pencil, and charcoal, including never-before-seen drawings made in Los Olivos during his teenage years. Clarence Mattei was just 15 when he made a pen-and-ink rendition of Emanuel Leutze’s “Washington Crossing the Delaware,” which is included in the exhibit. Guests at Mattei’s Tavern, philanthropists Herman and Ellen Duryea, saw his work and became his patrons, paying for him to attend the prestigious Mark Hopkins Art Institute in San Francisco from 1900 to 1902, which ultimately launched his career. 

Early works in the exhibition include family members and renderings of the locals who worked and hung around the Tavern, from cowboys to cooks to quirky characters. The exhibition also showcases portraits of luminaries of the era, including: President Herbert Hoover; artist John Singer Sargent; Henry S. Pritchett, astronomer and President of MIT; philanthropist and industrial heiress Amy DuPont; Peggy Stow (daughter of Sherman and Ida Hollister Stow, who built Stow House); and Thomas Storke (publisher of the News-Press), among others.

The Santa Barbara Historical Museum (136 E. De la Guerra St.) is open Wednesdays and Fridays-Sundays from -5 p.m. and Thursdays from noon-7 p.m. Admission is free. See sbhistorical.org.


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.