Alfred Mitchell was born in York, Pennsylvania in 1899. He became a painter of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, settling in San Diego in 1908. His plein-air paintings provide an historical record of the growth of San Diego in the early 20th century.
As a teenager Miller went West to Nevada during the Gold Rush, prospecting for gold. He relocated to Southern California and in 1913 began training at the San Diego Academy of Art. This was the city’s oldest art school founded by Maurice Braun who regarded Mitchell as one of his most important pupils. He encouraged Mitchell to return to his native state and study at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Enrolling there in 1916, Mitchell studied with Joseph Pearson and New Hope Impressionists Daniel Garber and Edward Redfield. With these influences, his style turned from Braun’s ‘feminine’ Impressionism toward the Pennsylvania school’s stronger brush work, strong color, clear light and strong outlines.
Mitchell returned to San Diego in the early 1920s and became a major influence in the art community. He was president of the San Diego Art Guild in 1922-23. He helped found the Laguna Beach Art Association and the La Jolla Art Association in 1918 where he exhibited his works regularly. Along with Braun and other artists and sculptors, Mitchell formed the Associated Artists of San Diego in 1929. Later the name changed to Contemporary Artists of San Diego.
Because of its strong color and emotional undertones, much of Mitchell’s art is categorized more as Post-Impressionistic, although his painting “Summer Hills” of 1929 is a fully Impressionist piece. Many Southern California landscapists of the 1920s composed ideal scenes within their studios, but Mitchell continually painted outdoors, “en plein air”, within a radius of San Diego, and often included buildings in his paintings, thus creating a valuable record of the development of the area.