Born in Newark, New Jersey, Alexander Harmer is considered Southern California’s first great painter of the 19th century. He began painting as a child and at age 13 left home for Lincoln Nebraska, where he spent three years before joining the army in Cincinnati, Ohio. Stationed in California for two years, he got a discharge to study art at the Pennsylvania School of Fine Arts in Philadelphia with Thomas Eakins and Thomas Anshutz. In 1881, he re-enlisted in the Army and was assigned cavalry duty in Arizona, where he painted American Indians. His expeditions against Geronimo and the Apaches earned him the title “Artist of the Apaches,” and his illustrations were published in Harper’s Weekly. He took his field sketches and notes of the Apaches and returned to the Pennsylvania Academy where he produced a series of oil paintings and watercolors. In the 1890’s, he settled in Santa Barbara and began painting portraits and genre scenes depicting 19th-century California settings. His adobe gallery and home on De La Guerra Plaza was a popular place for artists.