California Sample Book by Cleora Clark Wheeler

PhotographerCleora Clark Wheeler

ArtistCleora Clark Wheeler

CountryUnited States

MediumCardstock, Hand-Lettering, Photogravure

PortfolioCalifornia Sample Book by Cleora Clark Wheeler


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Associated Blog Posts:

Say It With Flowers . . . . Do It With Dishpans


Rare Gravure Sample Book by Minnesota Designer | Illuminator | Artist & Photographer Cleora Clark Wheeler

Comprised of 23 pictorial California scenes, many of which appeared as enlarged and hand-colored gelatin silver prints in the artists 1922 exhibition Atmospheric Studies: An Exhibition of the Work of Cleora Clark Wheeler at the Saint Paul Public Library in Minnesota, are presented here within this vintage artist-owned sample book used as a sales catalogue. The volume is hand-lettered in gilt on the cover by Wheeler, (1882-1980) :


Cleora Wheeler
Designer And Illuminator
1376 Summit Avenue
St. Paul, Minn.


The work contains hand-pulled photogravures on Japanese Gampi tissue individually titled and signed in graphite by the artist. The plates are each mounted on double sheets of hand-made paper which in turn have been corner-glued and centered on seven, oversized and folded olive-colored cardstock leaves collected and bound by a cord.


Priced at either .50¢ or $1.00 each and entirely identified as Japanese for the paper type used in their production,  a numbering system accompanies the plates, with small white labels affixed to the lower right margin between the Gampi tissue and its respective primary support. These are in most cases done in black ink by a typewriter, although several that have gone missing are replaced by stock #’s and pricing done in black ink by pen, presumably in the artist’s hand. A representative label: #470-Japanese    $1.00 . (the first plate in the online pagination for the book shows the entire plate with supports)


PhotoSeed, which acquired this album in 2016 from a seller in Guilderland, New York, who stated the work had been obtained from a Minneapolis estate many years previously, has assigned the date of 1922 for it, based on the description of its’ contents aligning with that of “Miniature Prints Made by hand from copper plates” - “Prints on Japanese tissue….$1.00” …”See sample book at desk” included as part of the St. Paul Public Library printed brochure issued for the 1922 exhibition. For a more in-depth examination of the life and work of Cleora Clark Wheeler, please consult the accompanying blog post included here.


Although several California photographs by Wheeler in the collection of the Minnesota Historical Society have been dated as being from “approximately 1920”, (the print: “At Santa Barbara” is dated in the artist’s hand 1921) research by this archive reveals she visited California as early as late 1903 after her graduation from the University of Minnesota. Although her involvement with photography is not definitively known at this time, she went back to live in Berkeley in late 1906 and through at the least the early part of 1907-possibly for an extended health convalescence as reported in the pages of The Key, the magazine of her beloved fraternity, Kappa Kappa Gamma. Travel by the artist in conjunction with her duties associated with ΚΚΓ would indicate she took advantage of locales in Colorado, (Boulder in 1914) and farther west in California while experimenting and honing her photographic vision. In 1912 she took classes at the New York School of Fine and Applied Art (now, Parsons School for Design) where she refined her skills as a graphic artist concentrating on bookplates. In a neat coincidence, she graduated college in 1903, the same year the American Photo-Secession launched by Alfred Stieglitz started publishing its’ journal Camera Work, the epitome of Arts & Crafts fine-art publishing in the United States. Wheeler’s soft-focus pictorial photographic work was evidently influenced by the movement’s practitioners.


Another interesting mention of these California photogravures-perhaps not coincidentally appearing in the San Francisco Bay area several months after the 1926 national ΚΚΓ convention that year at Mills College outside Oakland, was another reference to “miniature prints from copper plates” written as part of a review in the pages of Overland Monthly and Out West Magazine:

A painter turned photographer will occupy the attention of the visitors at the Paul Elder Gallery October 25 to November 6. Miss Cleora Clark Wheeler, of St. Paul, Minnesota, gained a reputation as a painter before she took up photography as her medium. As a result, her prints have a feeling of conscious design and a quality of painting. Those exhibited at Paul Elder’s will be some of her atmospheric studies of California scenes and a group of miniature prints from copper plates.

California Sample Book by Cleora Clark Wheeler

Cleora Clark WheelerGulls

California Sample Book by Cleora Clark Wheeler

Cleora Clark WheelerRedwoods