Collections Spotlight: Elizabeth Hoen’s Watercolor

March 22, 2021

Megan Kane, Collections Manager

As we make our way through Women’s History Month and learn more and more about the inspirational women of the past, let us learn a little bit about a groundbreaking woman in the Museum’s collection. Here at the Museum of Sonoma County, the very first painting that was cataloged into our collection was in fact by a woman! This small watercolor, only 5.5 by 3.25 inches, is by Santa Rosa-born artist Elizabeth Hoen and was painted in 1908.

Elizabeth Hoen, Untitled, 1908, watercolor on paper, gift of Sonoma County Historical Society, 1984

Elizabeth Hoen is not only the first painter to have their work cataloged into the Museum’s collection, but she was also a prolific artist in California in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and maintained a studio during a period when California art was largely dominated by men. Hoen was born in Santa Rosa, in 1868 or 1869. She was from an important family in early Sonoma County history. Her father, Berthold Hoen, purchased land from the Carrillo family that would one day be downtown Santa Rosa and assisted in laying out the original plan for the city of Santa Rosa. Hoen studied art with another prominent California-born artist, Lorenzo P. Latimer. As an artist, Hoen worked primarily in watercolor and painted landscapes, very often of Sonoma County. She had a studio in Los Angeles and worked from the 1890s through at least the 1910s. Hoen died in Santa Rosa in 1955.

This painting is a classic Hoen watercolor landscape, almost in miniature. We do not know where it was painted, but it could definitely be a Sonoma County landscape! It was gifted to the Sonoma County Historical Society by Mrs. Walter Nagel in 1963 and was part of the original founding collection of the Museum. The Museum has eight watercolors by Elizabeth Hoen in its collection today. Two of them are currently on display, including the first one, in our “35: Thirty-Five Artists for Thirty-Five Years” exhibition, and two additional Hoen watercolors were featured in “Landscape: Awe to Activism” in 2020.

(Clockwise from top left): Elizabeth Hoen, Along the Russian River, 1908, watercolor, gift of Grace Codding Cummings; Elizabeth Hoen, Untitled, 1908, watercolor on paper, gift of Sonoma County Historical Society, 1984; Elizabeth Hoen, Redwood Scene, 1908, watercolor, gift of Grace Codding Cummings

Today, the Museum of Sonoma County is working very hard to diversify its art collection, to include the work of all genders and artists of color and to ensure that its collection reflects the wonderfully diverse community of Sonoma County. While these efforts are ongoing, it is nice to look back and to know that at the very beginning, in the Museum’s founding collection, the work of a woman artist was valued and included as the first painting in our collection.

The Museum of Sonoma County maintains a permanent collection of over 18,000 objects, documenting the region's rich history and celebrating local artists.

More About MSC's Collection:

View "35:Thirty-Five Artists for Thirty-Five Years" Exhibition:

View "Landscape: Awe to Activism" Exhibition:

Museum of Sonoma County
475 Seventh Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
(707) 579-1500

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The mission of the Museum of Sonoma County is to engage and inspire our diverse community with art and history exhibitions, collections, and public programs that are inclusive, educational, and relevant.