A painter born in Franklin, Tennessee of German parents on Nov. 29, 1858, Matilda Lotz showed artistic promise at a very early age and by seven was drawing the household pets and farm animals. During the Civil War the family home was commandeered by Confederate forces for a hospital (it stands today as a historical landmark).
Following the war, economic conditions forced the Lotz family to leave Tennessee and head West. In the fall of 1869 they arrived in California and settled in San Jose. Matilda’s first art lessons were from her brother Paul and other artists employed locally by Wright’s Photography Gallery. In 1874 she began a six-year course of study under Virgil Williams at the School of Design in San Francisco. While attending that school, she won several medals and graduated with highest honors.
Matilda was also a pupil of William Keith, and in the 1880s furthered her art study in Paris under Felix Barrias and the animal painter Emile Van Marcke. While in Paris she received an honorable mention for her work exhibited at the Paris Salon and was awarded two gold medals by the Paris Academy of Painting (the first woman ever to be honored by the Academy).
Returning to San Francisco in the mid-1880s, she painted portraits of such notables as William Randolph Hearst and Leland Stanford. In the 1890s she returned to Paris where she was closely associated with Rosa Bonheur for several years. She was invited to London by the Duke of Portland and, while there, received several commissions from members of British nobility for her animal paintings.
In the late 1890s she was invited for an extended stay at an estate in Tata, Hungary where she continued animal portraiture. At the outbreak of WWI she was living in Algiers until she was expelled by the French. Abandoning her belongings and paintings, in 1915 she returned to Tata where she remained until her death on Feb. 21, 1923. During the last decade of her life she was the wife of painter Ferenc Blaskovitz.
California State Fair, 1872, 1874; San Francisco Art Association, 1875-1910; Mechanics’ Institute (SF), 1878-87; Paris Salon, 1882-86; Gumps (SF), 1888, 1900; California Midwinter International Expo, 1894; Del Monte Art Gallery (Monterey), 1909.
In: Corcoran Gallery of Art; Oakland Museum; Milwaukee Art Center.
Sources: Interview; AAA 1907-08; KOV; Ben; CSL; WWA 1923.
Edan Hughes, “Artists in California, 1786-1940”