Claire Dooner Phillips

Although Claire Dooner Phillips(aka Clara Dooner) was born and raised in California, she had deep ties to Arizona.  Her father, Pierton William Dooner, was a Canadian who first came to the territory shortly after the Civil War.  He first arrived in Tucson where he edited and published the Tucson Weekly Arizonan.  A few years later he became the owner and publisher of the Prescott Arizona Miner.   In 1872 he left Arizona for Los Angeles where he became a partner in a drugstore.

Over the next several years P.W. Dooner became a wealthy man, primarily through investments in real estate.  At one time he allegedly owned one of the corners of Hollywood and Vine.  In 1878 he married a Michigan native named Cynthia and they had two daughters. Clara, the second, was born in 1887.

Clara inherited her father's keen intellect. This combined with her family's resources afforded her the opporunity to attend the best schools.  At Stanford University she was a charter member of the Omega Chapter of the Tri-Delta Sorority.  After graduating Phi Beta Kappa she attended Columbia University where she studied under Arthur Dow. 

Dow, whose star pupils included artists Max Weber and Georgia O'Keefe, was a strong advocate of abstraction.  He taught the use of five basic composition principles to create freely constructed images. Dow held a strong bias against traditional academic teachings at the time, along with a firm belief that "beauty is not representation". 

Although a slight modernist slant can be seen in her paintings and etchings, it is not known how much Dow's teachings influenced Dooner Phillips.  After Columbia she returned to southern California where she taught at Hollywood High School.  She was also active in the local arts scene, exhibiting in group shows of the Women Painters of the West and the California Art Club.  In 1918 she became a charter member of the Laguna Beach Art Association.

In 1922 Clara Dooner Phillips moved to Prescott, Arizona.  The relocation was most likely made for her health reasons although there may have been other factors involved. Her mother, who she had lived with until the age of thirty-four, had died the year before. By now making her living full time as an artist, she maintained her ties to southern California many years after leaving, exhibiting there in 1923 and 1924.  She listed her permanent residence as 1919 Canyon Drive in Los Angeles until 1926. 

The following year she married Kervin Ryan Phillips in Flagstaff.  Phillips, a Mississippi native who moved to Prescott for his health, would later craft the hand carved, gilded frames for nearly all of his wife's paintings.

Sometime after her arrival in Prescott she changed her first name from Clara to Claire. Her reason for doing so is lost to history, though compared to the reinventions many other artists went through after arriving in Arizona, the slight modification of a first name seems rather innocuous. 

Phillips would remain in Prescott for the rest of her life.  Residents at the time recalled a refined, elegant woman, "a real lady", always composed and well dressed.  

Most of Phillip's works in the 1920's and 30's were in oil, primarily northern Arizona landscapes.  Figures were a rarity in her scenes. In the the early 1940's she began doing etchings, primarily landscapes of the Colorado Plateau.  The etchings were popular as wedding presents for many Prescott area newlyweds in the 1950's.

Claire Dooner Phillips died on April 2, 1960.  Two years later Kervin Phillips died and the entire estate of $88,000 was left to Prescott College.  The funds were used to build the Clara Dooner Phillips Memorial Fine Arts Center, which was dedicated in May, 1971.  Today the facility is known as the Davis Learning Center of Embry Riddle Aeronautical University.

 

 

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Claire Dooner Phillips

We are always interested in purchasing or accepting Claire Dooner Phillips paintings on consignment.  Please contact us with any inquiries.

Blossoms by Claire Dooner Phillips
 
Claire Dooner Phillips Grand Canyon
 
Claire Dooner Phillips aka Clara Dooner  Oak Creek Canyon

 

One of the Blue Coyote Gallery's primary objectives is to acquire biographical information about historically important Arizona artists. Background and biographical information about many of the deceased artists we feature is often very sketchy and limited at best. 

We encourage anyone with any biographical information, stories, or anecdotes about Claire Dooner Phillips to contact us.. Information can be sent via email or postal mail. We would also be glad to arrange interviews either via telephone or in person. 

Please contact Gary Fillmore at gary@bluecoyotegallery.com

 
 
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