November 6, 2016 § Leave a comment
By MATT GONZALEZ
For several years in the early 1950s, Paul Wonner returned to a subject matter in his art making practice: the painting of a still life with femme au coq, translated from the French as woman with rooster. Anyone familiar with modern European painting would recognize the motif as it was explored by many artists, including Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall. The trope presents the rooster as a symbol of sexuality, virility and fertility. Paired with the woman, it exalts romantic love and the heterosexual coupling traditionally associated with marriage.
It is curious that Wonner would find the subject matter interesting enough to return to it over the years — at least four known times in a four- to five-year period — while he was a student at U.C. Berkeley. Of course, painters often return to the same landscape, or paint a subject’s portrait repeatedly, but the painting of a subject that is so allegorical and laden with symbolism is not as common. It suggests Wonner was intrigued by or wrestling with its meaning in connection with his own life and art.
May 16, 2012 § Leave a comment
William Theophilus Brown — Bill to his friends — and Paul Wonner met as graduate art students at Berkeley in 1952. Their partnership endured. “He was my best critic,” said Brown, “and I think I was his.”
In a conversation with Paul Karlstrom of the Smithsonian Institution in 2011, Brown recalled when they met.
WTB: I came out to California because I wanted to try to find out a little more about who I was. And I knew nobody in California. I knew the Stravinskys, but they were in Los Angeles. And so I decided to go to graduate school at Berkeley and get a degree so I would be able to teach. And I did. And I came out in the fall three days before classes began and signed up. And Paul Wonner was in three out of four classes the first semester.
That’s how you two met?
That’s how we met. Well, we met, but he thought I was such a snob that he didn’t really speak to me very much.
He got over it. How?
He got over it. I didn’t change. Anyway, it took a while, but then I could see from my point of view that Paul was the best painter among the students and also the faculty. So we did get together then.
How old was he relative to you?
I think he was about two or three years younger.
Because you were together a very long time. When did you become a couple?
I think by the end of that first year. We were together 50 years. He was my best critic and I think I was his best critic. We really trusted each other. And, well, I thought he was a marvelous man. Still do.
October 9, 2007 § 2 Comments
By JONATHON KEATS
Art & Antiques
In the corner of Paul Wonner’s San Francisco studio rests a small cot, ready to accommodate a mid-afternoon nap. At 87, Wonner tires easily and no longer has the strength to paint large canvases. Yet the artist, whose voice resonates with calm certainty, sees his age as an advantage. “One of the good things about being this old is that you can do whatever the hell you want,” he says, tracing the lines etched in his face with knobby fingers.