SAN FRANCISCO, CA.-
Theophilus Brown the last of the pioneering members of Californias vaunted Bay Area Figurative movement, who had ties to many of the major players in the 20th century art world is being celebrated with a memorial exhibition.
Theophilus Brown: A Celebration opened on April 21 and continues through May 26 at the Thomas Reynolds Gallery
at 2291 Pine Street in San Francisco.
Brown first gained national attention in 1956 when his paintings of football players, with abstracted images of bodies in motion, appeared in Life magazine. His work was included in Bay Area Figurative Painting, the seminal 1957 exhibition at the Oakland Museum that spotlighted a return to figuration among a group of Northern California painters, including Richard Diebenkorn, David Park and others.
He was a pivotal player in the Bay Area Figurative Movement, but he was also far more than that, gallery owner Thomas Reynolds said. He was a bridge to the whole New York scene of the 40s and 50s, and even to postwar Paris.
Brown met Picasso and drew with Giacometti in France and became friends with Willem and Elaine de Kooning and Mark Rothko in New York. His paintings are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. and all of the major California museums.
Brown was born in 1919 in Moline, Illinois. His father, also Theophilus Brown, was an inventor with more than 150 patents to his name who worked as the chief innovation officer of the John Deere Co. He invented the hydraulic lift for tractors and his son liked to note also invented the manure spreader. Brown kept a poster for that invention in his studio.
His father taught him to draw when he was a child. At age 11, he won an adult art competition at a nearby museum and received his award from Grant Wood, whose American Gothic became iconic. Brown loved to recall the look of surprise on Woods face when a young boy came forward to be honored.
He was also a talented musician from an early age and majored in music at Yale University. He played piano with dedication and talent throughout his life, often accompanied by a violinist. He bequeathed his beloved Steinway grand piano to the San Francisco Towers, the senior home where he lived during the last decade of his life, which he called the Versailles of retirement homes. A memorial recital will be performed on his piano in the homes grand salon preceding the opening reception. Brown has endowed an annual recital to spotlight talented young musicians.
On his 90th birthday, his gallery hosted a single-malt Scotch tasting in Browns honor. It was his favorite drink. Life is too short for cheap white wine, he said at the time. The tasting will be reprised during the opening reception of his memorial exhibition.
The exhibition is drawn entirely from Browns personal collection of his paintings, drawings and collages in his apartment and studio at the time of his death. It includes his collection of work by his partner, Paul Wonner, another key member of the Bay Area Figurative group.