Claudine Chalmers

Art Historian & Celebrated  Author


Claudine Chalmers moved from her native Cannes, France, to California after graduate studies at the University of Nice. She soon developed great interest in the history of her adoptive Golden State while traveling around the Sierras with her family.

             In 1991, while working freelance for Random House’s textbook division, she turned the information unearthed in the course of her ten year research into a lively 800-page PHD dissertation on Gold Rush San Francisco’s numerous and colorful French pioneers.

             Her fascination with early California led her to research and write “Splendide Californie: Impressions of the Golden State by French Artists,” a book magnificently produced by the Book Club of California which received the Commonwealth Club’s 2001 silver award and a great review in the Los Angeles Times. An exhibit based on this book was hosted by San Francisco’s California Historical Society and Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum.  Her many articles on the subject appeared, among others, in the CHS Quarterly, the Catalog of Antiques & Fine Art, the Californians, Ancestry Magazine, as well as quarterlies in France, and a spot in a French documentary for the prestigious television show Thalassa.

After calling Mill Valley her home for many years, Chalmers followed this quest to the Sierra foothills where she built a beautiful log cabin on the edge of the wilderness. There she finds fresh inspiration to continue chronicling the compelling stories of California’s boisterous early days, and the adventures of the French pioneers and artists who preceded her to the Gold Country so long ago.


A quest to uncover California’s French Heritage

“When I first settled in Northern California, I went on a treasure hunt for French placenames, wondering how they had appeared in such a faraway land. My quest turned into stories, the stories into these books that document how a large, early French population helped shape and chronicle the Golden State.”

— Claudine Chalmers, PhD—

French History & Art History… Together

Book Cover- Barbizon by the Pacific




Claudine Chalmers &
Guy de Rougemont

Foreword: Terry L. Trotter
Preface: Gary F. Kurutz

300 Pages of French-American Art and History centered around California’s Monterey region in the late 1800s.


Dr. Claudine Chalmers was knighted by the French Ministry of Culture for her decades-long work on California’s French heritage. This is her third book on Jules Tavernier. Guy de Rougemont is a historian and journalist living in Southern France. In 2011, he published Lazard Frères, Banquiers des Deux Mondes with Editions Fayard.

ISBN:  978-1-956579-51-2
Book cover, French San Francisco, author Claudine Chalmers PhD

French San Francisco

by: Claudine Chalmers

Nineteenth-century California was not a destination for the faint of heart, and Frenchmen are usually said to prefer their slippers to their traveling boots. Yet many visitors from France starting in 1786 with legendary explorer Count de Lapérouse made their way to the remote and beautiful territory, leaving enduring accounts and images of their experience. As France’s troubled revolutionary era began in the 1840s, tens of thousands of Frenchmen journeyed to California’s goldfields. Some found wealth, others freedom, and some death. Many remained in San Francisco, helping shape the city and make it French from the inside.

Cover, "Chronicling the West for Harper's, Coast to Coast with Frenzeny & Tavernier in 1873-1874" - author Claudine Chalmers PhD
Chronicling the West for Harper’s

Coast to coast
Frenzeny & Tavernier

by: Claudine Chalmers
The opening of the West after the Civil War drew a flood of Americans and immigrants to the frontier. The Harper brothers hired two talented, spirited Frenchmen to record the vanishing frontier as it appeared to them in 1873 & 1874. This coast-to-coast assignment produced the most remarkable documentary of the West ever published in a 19th century American newspaper. Its scope is unique: 100 sketches, 12 months on the road. So is its quality: Frenzeny & Tavernier were superlative artists who developed a technique to better work together, drew directly on the woodblock for better quality woodcuts, and sent cogent commentaries to further enhance their drawings.
      Claudine Chalmers takes the reader along their remarkable sketching tour from New York to San Francisco in this heavily illustrated book that features all 100 sketches and commentaries. Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press, 2013.

“— most entertaining and informative book. It helped me visualize the place, time, and even the aromas of nineteenth century Monterey. Bravo!

—John Rexine, Collections and Exhibitions
Director,Monterey Museum of Art

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