The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 nearly destroyed the city and effectively ruined the life's work of dozens of well-known artists who saw their collections devastated by the fires that followed the earthquake. Many left the city, never to return, but others stayed to rebuild their community and their careers.
Artist Arthur Frank Mathews was one of these people. He had been serving as the Director of the School of Design in San Francisco at the time of the earthquake. He resigned from his post at that time and opened a furniture shop where he and his wife worked both to earn a living and to rebuild the San Francisco arts community. He would later be known as one of the founders of the Arts and Crafts movement, and an innovator of the "California Decorative" style.
His efforts at helping to rebuild the arts community is seen as culminating in the Pan American International Exhibition of 1915, which showcased the city's remarkable recovery from the devastation only a few years earlier.
Mathews had studied at the School of Design and then continued his training at the Academie Julian in Paris. He became well-known for his Tonalist paintings; focusing on landscapes and female figures in classical garb. He was also well known for his diversity of talent, which included architecture, furniture making, printing, painting, murals, and even urban design. He had a reputation for dominance, and was disliked by some of the city's progressive artists, especially due to his denial of Impressionism and modern art as acceptable genres in the San Francisco community.
His works and crafts are in the collections of many major museums, including the Oakland Museum of California and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.