Sophie Pike Marston Brannan, the daughter of John E. Brannan, a financier and philanthropist, and Carrie Augusta (Sheldon) Brannan, grew up in San Francisco. She began her formal training at the California School of Design at the age of seven and had her first exhibition (of pencil sketches) at 12. Later, following 14 months of study in Paris (c. 1898-1899), she resumed work at the School of Design under Arthur F. Mathews and then embarked upon her career in the Bay Area. Most of her early work was lost in the fire and earthquake of 1906. She moved to New York about 1910 and achieved national recognition for award winning canvases in important national shows. At the outbreak of WWII she returned to San Francisco where she remained until her death on March 16,1960.
Brannan apparently did little painting in her later years. No longer financially secure, she worked as an artist at the Alameda Air Base during World War II and for many years after. She sketched in France and New York, produced many works of California counties including Marin, Monterey, Napa, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz. The oils, watercolors, and pastels resulting from these trips, distinctive for their skies and attention to trees, particularly oaks, included Lake Merritt, Monterey Oaks, California Oaks, and Monterey Landscape.
Brannan also had an interest in historic structures, particularly those of Monterey, and did such paintings as General Sherman’s Headquarters, the Old Customs House, the Rodrigues House, and Adobe in Monterey. An exhibitor from 1896 until the early 1930s, Brannan had one-person shows across the country.