Artist And Friend of Picasso William Theophilus Brown Dies




William ‘Theophilus’ Brown, a painter closely associated with the San Francisco Bay area’s ‘figurative’ movement, has died aged 92

Brown was key artist of the figurative movement during the mid-20th century when artists moved away from extreme abstractionism to incorporate elements of realism in their portraits, landscapes and still-lifes. His work is exhibited internationally, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., and the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco.


A descendant of early-American intellectuals, Brown’s great-grandfather was friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Brown’s father was an inventor and chief designer, at the John Deere Company in Moline, Illinois. While attending Yale University in the late-1930s, Brown met composer Paul Hindemith and poet May Sarton, with whom he would share lifetime friendships. After graduating in 1941, Brown was drafted in World War II.


In 1956, Brown attracted national attention when Life magazine published three of his paintings featuring football players in motion. He then went on to have his first solo exhibition at the Felix Landau Gallery in 1957. During this period he socialised with many of the artistic luminaries of the post-war period such as Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, and Willem de Kooning. His subsequent move to San Francisco was in part to escape the eclipsing presence of such individuals: ‘I moved here because I was orbiting around all of these famous people, and I needed to find out who I was,’ he said.

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