Monday, September 21, 2009

"I'm very attached to subject matter and this determines to a large extent what happens in my paintings.. " Theophilus Brown

With a great name like that, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to read that he is a descendant of intellectuals whose friends included Emerson and Thoreau. I don't know why he does not seem to have the name recognition of his contemporaries (Rothko, deKooning, Diebenkorn, Park, for instance.)

While some of the painters he worked and studied with (Bay Area Figurative Artists) depersonalized their subjects, rendering faces in a more universal and less particular way, some of Brown's subjects are quite obviously distinct people. Here's a favorite of mine with its blazing blue eyes, entitled Portrait of D.K. (Don Knutson), 1964. I find it hard to use both red and blue without having them fight with each other or cancel each other out; these two hues he's chosen seem to enliven the other. In the book I have, the red in the upper left is saturated and glowing. Hard to see that here.

He also dashed off (well maybe they are not spontaneous but they look it) these small black and white portraits of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsburg.

Doesn't it seem like it may take more ability to know what to leave out as it does to nail down the features? Love those two lines on Ginsburg's forehead. (I'm starting to sound like Oprah - "love that!") The
se were both painted in 1961 on
paper with oil and casein.

Hard not to look at these without just giving up and putting away your sketch book forever.

I was inspired to learn that Brown is 90 and still paints in San Francisco; his new work can be seen at Elins Eagle-Smith Gallery.

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