San Francisco

William Theo Brown

Hollis Galleries

Brown’s enthusiasm for the figure is probably an extension of the life class work of his school period, but the nude here is not posing: he is wrestling, diving, playing volley ball, or just looking in a mirror, but always actively engaged. The color is bright and handsome, fairly varied, and seems to be the principal interest of the painter. It is a happy combination of the expressive and decorative uses of color.

A frequently used technique among the broad brush figurative painters, is to flatly paint in the silhouette of the figure in a thin turp wash, and then body forth a loosely modeled part of the figure with heavier paint, giving that part a solidity of form, but leaving large areas of the original silhouette to represent shadows that fall across the body. These areas are unsatisfactory as shadows, but certainly these artists do not intend that the figure should look hollow, as if the dark part is the inside of the back. This seems to be an awkward failure of illusion. However that may be, Brown shares that characteristic hollow shadow with a number of his fellow painters of this school. And he also shares their penchant for rather awkward distortions in the drawing, the purpose of which is obscure.

This may be why the single large painting in the show, Evening Garden, seems to be one of the more successful pieces. There is no figure, but it is a richly full picture with arbor, lawn, cane chairs, and a grove of saplings in dramatic diagonals. There is also an elegant desk top Still Life With Geranium Blossom of unusual composition: a black and grey photo is partially seen in the lower corner, the desk top in rich brown extends to the top of the canvas, the flower, painted in loose, swift profusion, holding the center of attention, with the desk indicated by a line or two, and the color. Another Still Life With Mirror is a simple but effective double image of a lime on a plate with a spoon. The lime is accented by a heavy black shadow—not a washed flat shade, but pure black dramatically used as a color.

Knute Stiles