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About this collection


Edith Harvey Heron was born on January 2, 1895, the daughter of William S. and Ada Heron of Hostetter Road in the Berryessa Community of San José, California.


Growing up in San José, Heron attended many local schools throughout her life. She graduated from San José High School in 1914. She then attended the all-girls San José Normal School, now known as San José State University, graduating in 1918, becoming a teacher. Following a short-term teaching career in art therapy she decided to attend the California School of Arts and Crafts in Berkley until 1921.


Later in the 1920s, Heron taught art therapy through pottery and basketry at the Stockton State Hospital. She also taught waving and furniture design at the Livermore Sanatorium. In 1929, Heron graduated from San José State Teachers College (SJSU) with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts.


In the 1930s, Heron became a well-known, award winning watercolor artist. The same year she moved out of San Jose, moving to Pacific Grove. When her father, William passed in 1935, Heron became the head of the household living with her younger brother Colin, a life insurance agent.


In 1935 Edith sent a watercolor painting to Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt of one of the Carmel Mission towers in appreciation of her work with girls of the national training school reformatory. Mrs. Roosevelt sent her a thank you letter for her painting.


Through 1932-1942 Heron held 12 exhibitions and one-man shows of her watercolor paintings, many that were held in the Bay Area.


In the summer of 1932, while trying to paint the Carmel Mission there was some confusion about Edith having permission to be on the grounds and paint. Since Edith refused to leave, a police officer was called to force her to leave. As a result of this incident all artists were banned.


In 1933-34 she made a 14-month trip to Europe by way of the Panama Canal leaving from New York, painting scenes as she went along. Heron enjoyed painting while she traveled. While in Europe Edith received praise from a famous Scotch Artist Throughout her life Heron also traveled with her paintbrush to Mexico, Central America and Canada. No matter where she traveled to, she always maintained her residence in California. Over the years, she resided in San Mateo, Pacific Grove, San Francisco, Monterey and San José.  


One of the first awards Heron won was the First National Award in Watercolor from the National League of American Pen Women, Cleveland in 1937 for her “Old Tom, Monterey” painting. She then won two awards for her 1939 painting “Gloucester Fishwharf, Massachusetts.” One from the First National Award in Watercolor of the National League of American Pen Women, San Francisco and also the Water Color Medal of the National Society for Sanity in Art in San Francisco, California Palace of the Legion of Honor. In 1942, she won the First Award In Watercolor from the Southside Art Assembly.


In 1942, Heron continued her art therapy by teaching arts and crafts to Japanese-Americans at the internment camps at Poston War Relocation Center in Arizona.


In 1968, no longer producing pictures, Heron was rumored to have been working on writing and illustrating a children’s book based on Monterey. That year she also decided to donate 12 of her watercolor paintings to the San José Public Library, at the suggestion of her good friend Mr. David McDaniel, a former Commissioner of the San José Library Board. In 1974, she also decided to donate 6 of her paintings to her alma mater San José State University. Through time they have acquired a total of 20 pieces of her watercolor collection.


In 1976 Heron suffered a stroke that caused her to be placed in a convalescent home. Four years later on March 6, 1980, Heron passed away at the age of 85. At the time she was a resident of San Mateo, California. Though never married she always remained close to her brother Colin whom pasted away 3 years after her.


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