Ernest Clayton (b. 1868) studied at the South Kensington Art Schools (now the Royal Academy of Art) and the London Museum.
After a failed effort to raise peaches in Bakersfield, he moved in 1897 to San Francisco and resumed his art work, producing stained glass windows and other forms of art glass.
When the 1906 earthquake and fire destroyed San Francisco, Clayton and his family, along with hundreds of other refugees, escaped across the bay to Marin County. They spent the summer in a tented camp in San Anselmo, beside the Corte Madera Creek and built a cottage on a hillside lot at 434 Laurel Avenue. A keen amateur botanist and skilled horticulturist he designed and planted a lovely garden up the steep hill to his house. He lived in San Anselmo until his death in 1956.
After the earthquake, Clayton re-built his glass company in San Francisco. He retired in the 1930s but continued with his art. From 1938 until 1952, when he was 84, he painted a collection of two hundred watercolor studies of California wildflowers. Most of the collection was purchased by the San Francisco Public Library prior to his death. It may be seen at the History Room and in occasional exhibits at the Library and online at the Library's web site.
Ernest Clayton was our grandfather. Seventy years ago around San Anselmo there were still large sweeps of wildflowers to be seen where now there are roads, houses, and gardens of exotic plants.
The specimens for Clayton's studies were primarily from Marin County, and often from flowers collected on walks he took with us around Bald Hill when we were small children.
Our hope is that through this project we can bring the beauty of Ernest Clayton's studies and some of the beauty of California's wildflowers to a larger audience.