Now at the Wolfsonian

April 22, 2010 § 1 Comment

Portrait of Kay | Mac Harshberger

The Wolfsonian Museum in Miami is presenting “+5: Recent Acquisitions” showcasing the growth of the collection during the past five years.

Included in the exhibition is the elegant “Portrait of Kay” by Mac Harshberger, which was shown in San Francisco in 2009 for a final time before the William Whitney Collection was bequeathed to the Wolfsonian.

Due largely to Whitney’s efforts, Mac Harshberger’s work from the 1920s has gradually gained greater recognition in recent decades. Handsomely designed one-man exhibitions were mounted at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Honolulu Academy of Art and the Eloise Pickard Smith Gallery at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Examples of Harshberger’s work are preserved in the permanent collections of those institutions and in the Wolfsonian.

Whitney authored An Elegance of Line, a monograph on Harshberger, which made its debut alongside an exhibition of Harshberger’s work at the Thomas Reynolds Gallery.

Read more: “Keeper of the Flame

Bill Brown and his famous friends

February 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

A catalog of the exhibition is available.

One of the pioneers of Bay Area Figurative painting, artist Theophilus “Bill” Brown, 90, certainly qualifies as a local treasure. Still painting and drawing today, his work is celebrated in “Theophilus Brown Nudes: Five Decades of Drawing and Painting the Figure,” showing at the Thomas Reynolds Gallery in San Francisco through March 13.

After stays in Paris, where he met Braque, Picasso and Giacometti and studied with Leger, and New York, where he befriended the de Koonings, Brown moved to the Bay Area in 1952 to study painting at UC Berkeley. On his third day in California, he met a fellow painter, Paul Wonner, who would become his life partner. Along with Diebenkorn, Elmer Bischoff and David Park, Brown and Wonner embraced the then-radical return of the human figure to the modern painting, what would become known as the Bay Area Figurative Movement. In Brown’s case, that returning to painting’s roots included extensive studies of the male nude. Brown still lives and works in San Francisco today.

During his one-man show’s run this month, Brown visited the gallery with Don Bachardy, the late Christopher Isherwood’s partner, and painter and official portraitist of Gov. Jerry Brown. Bill Brown is an old friend of Bachardy and Isherwood, and Bachardy came up from LA to see the show. Brown reminisced about old times with them, including a memorable dinner at their house. Before dinner, Isherwood had excused himself and left, and after a little while he returned — with Marlene Dietrich in tow. Of course they also talked about Tom Ford’s new film, A Single Man, from Isherwood’s novel. Both gave thumbs up.

Living history was flowering on Pine Street that day.


A Pflueger masterpiece

January 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

The newly restored Alameda Theater

We journeyed across a couple of bridges last night — all the way to Alameda — to hear a talk by Therese Poletti, who’s just published a beautiful book on the great San Francisco architect Timothy Pflueger called Art Deco San Francisco.

We know Pflueger primarily for his Deco towers in San Francisco — the Pacific Bell building, which was the city’s first high-rise; the Stock Exchange building, with its stunning silver-ceilinged club up top; the Mayan medical building at 450 Sutter — plus the Castro and Paramount Theaters and on and on.

Among his most magnificent works is the little-known Alameda Theater, which recently has been restored to its full glory, with nearly all of its original fixtures and details still in place and fully polished. It’s definitely worth a visit.

Journey to the tropics

October 22, 2004 § Leave a comment

A catalog of Francis Livingston's paintings is available.

Trips to tropical islands to capture them in paint don’t always yield the best results. But a recent trip did. One of the major factors was that this was a combination travel event, with much time being spent with my son looking for birds and exploring their habitat. This exploration took me to different parts of the islands, introduced me to people and showed me small villages I probably would never have explored if my sole reason was to look for things to paint.

For two weeks we were in the rain forest, mountains and beaches. We also spent some time in larger towns. My mind is still reeling from the visual impact: the contrast of wealth and poverty and the wonderful graphics and colors on buildings in both rural and urban areas. The people and the color and light are inspiring a significant group of paintings.


Sketching Gold Rush San Francisco

August 21, 1997 § Leave a comment

Frank Marryat was only 20, but already the adventurous young English aristocrat had traveled as a midshipman in the Royal Navy through Asia, then written and illustrated a book describing his journey. And so when gold was discovered that year in California, Marryat could not — and would not — resist the thrill of joining the rush. With a servant and three dogs in tow, he sailed in 1850 for Panama and on to San Francisco.
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