Born in Bangor, Maine, Frederick Butman became one of California’s most successful early artists following his arrival in San Francisco in 1857. He was not formally trained, but during the time that he owned an apothecary shop in Gardiner, Maine (1849 to 1857), he began to draw and paint figure studies and landscapes, which were much admired.
Once in San Francisco, Butman painted local subjects such as Hunter’s Point and Chinatown. He also traveled widely throughout the state and portrayed the dramatic terrain of the Monterey Peninsula, Yosemite Valley, Lake Tahoe region, and Mount Shasta, specializing in snowy scenes at higher elevations. In the early 1860s, Butman traveled and painted through Oregon and Washington. He exhibited at the Mechanics’ Institute and at the California State Fair. His more showy paintings of dramatic landscapes reportedly sold for high prices — as much as $8,000.
Butman returned to the East in 1867 and settled in New York, exhibiting at the National Academy of Design and also at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He ultimately returned to San Francisco and painted the California landscape, and died in 1871 while visiting family in Maine.