Toby Rosenthal, California’s First “Important” Jewish Artist

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Toby Edward Rosenthal

Toby Rosenthal Self Portrait. WS 22/3250

Toby Rosenthal Self Portrait.
WS 22/3250

Values Codes I-H-E-L

Toby Rosenthal was born in 1848 in the Prussian-Polish city of Strassburg.

Toby was brought to America in 1853.

(Other biographers say he was born in Connecticut.)


San Francisco

In 1858, the Rosenthal family moved to San Francisco, where Toby’s parents had a tailoring and cleaning business.

Toby Rosenthal soon gave evidence of great artistic ability, was given art lessons, and in 1865 sent to Munich to further his art studies.


TobyRosenthal became known as the first impor­tant California Jewish artist, though his major works were produced in Europe.


Sheet Music showing of Toby Rosenthal's "Elaine" WS 27/3991

Sheet Music showing of Toby Rosenthal’s “Elaine”
WS 27/3991

When he sent his painting Elaine back to San Francisco for display in 1875, crowds of people paid admission to stand before it, many with tears in their eyes.

The painting was stolen a few days later and was front page news throughout the country – the first major art theft in our nation’s history.

Its recovery was one of the great triumphs of the San Francisco Police Department.


Toby Rosenthal painted numerous San Franciscans while they were on their European tours, and was Jacob Stern’s art advisor.

Toby Rosenthal’s painting, The Cardinal’s Portrait, owned by the Jacob Stern (nephew of Levi Strauss) estate, has been voted their favor­ite painting by San Franciscans.


Toby Rosenthal passed away in 1917

Toby Rosenthal ^”A Dance Lesson”-San Francisco, CA, #WS3248


More information can be found in the following issues of Western States Jewish History:

  • Rosenthal, Toby; Childhood of San Francisco’s Artist; Toby Rosenthal; San Francisco; Stern, Norton B. & Kramer, William M.; 24/2
  • Rosenthal, Toby E.; Patrons of Artist Toby E. Rosenthal; San Francisco; Stern, Norton B. & Kramer, William M.; 18/2
  • Rosenthal, Toby E., Pioneer Jews of San Francisco, Part Two, M-Z, Norton Stern, 41/2


Photo Gallery [New photos always welcome]

Note: To enlarge any photo, click on the middle of it.

Young Toby Rosenthal WS 22/3246

Young Toby Rosenthal
WS 22/3246



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