Dooner's education in art prior to college is unknown, but she did win an honorable mention for a photograph submitted to St. Nicholas magazine competition when she was 14. Her degree from Stanford was in drawing (graduated 1908). Apparently as a graduation present she went to France, England, and perhaps elsewhere in Europe with her mother. Two sketch books have drawings from that trip. The only signed item from this early period I have seen has a monogram "CD." A few years later she studied a year at Teachers College, Columbia University (1912-13) where Arthur Wesley Dow taught. Dow was one of the most influential art teachers of the early 20th century and had substantial influence in California. Many Dow students, including Dooner and the Gearhart sisters, taught in the Los Angeles school system.
Teachers College was the major school in the U.S. at the time for art teacher instruction. Claims that Dooner was greatly influenced by Dow seems likely but requires more research. Dow's emphasis was upon interpretation of nature and not on realistic depiction. Dooner's work is diverse and includes both interpretation, as does all art, and realism. He may have been most influential in her composition. Her ever-present theme is a "view through the tree(s)," a compositional device used by Dow, but also by many other artists.
Ink and wash, Trees, possibly California, n.d.
Claire Dooner Phillips