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SFAI & Granville Redmond, Douglas Tilden, Theophilus d'Estrella, Charlie Chaplin


Granville Redmond with Charlie Chaplin. Douglas Tilden, The Football Players


In the late 19th century, three fascinating deaf artists arrived at the School by way of Berkeley’s California School for the Deaf:

Theophilus Hope d’Estrella was the University of California’s first deaf student, and later became the first deaf student at the California School of Design (now SFAI). D’Estrella, a painter, was also noted for his photography, having been inspired by watching Eadweard Muybridge at work in the 1870s.

Deaf artist Douglas Tilden, a life-long friend of d’Estrella, took classes at the School as well, and later returned as its first sculpture teacher in 1894. Tilden became a celebrated sculptor, with many of his commissions still on display throughout the Bay Area, including at UC Berkeley, where over the years his statue The Football Players has become a symbol for the campus’s queer community, with students picking up on its homoeroticism.

Granville Redmond, who had been a student of d’Estrella’s at the California School for the Deaf, became one of the most prominent of early 20th century California painters. Living in Los Angeles, Redmond became close friends with Charlie Chaplin who was a fan of his work. Redmond was “instrumental in perfecting Chaplin’s pantomime technique.” Chaplin cast Redmond in several of his movies–look for him in the role of the sculptor in City Lights.

(Celebrating year 23 of #sfai150)

This week Redmond’s story was featured in the New York Times section on “overlooked” obituaries.

For more on Douglas Tilden see Nina Zurier’s essay in UC’s Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archives’ Orbits of Known and Unknown Objects: SFAI Histories, Matrix 277

And for a deep dive into the biography of d’Estrella here is a link to the pdf of Mildred Albronda’s The Magic Lantern Man: Theophilus Hope d’Estrella.


With permission, SFAA is re-posting the emails Jeff Gunderson Librarian/Archivist Anne Bremer Memorial Library has been sending out since March 2020. Please enjoy this magnificent archive.