Painter William Theophilus Brown dies at age 92

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — William Theophilus Brown, a painter who enjoyed success for more than half-a-century and was closely associated with the San Francisco Bay area's "figurative" movement, has died. He was 92.

Brown died Wednesday in his apartment at a San Francisco high-rise retirement community, gallery owner Thomas Reynolds told the San Francisco Chronicle (http://bit.ly/zRdvAj). He said Brown painted and took art classes until the end of his life.

Brown's partner of nearly 50 years, the celebrated artist Paul Wonner, died in 2008.

Brown was part of the figurative movement that art historians recognize as a period during the mid-20th century when artists moved away from extreme abstractionism and included some realism in their portraits, landscapes and still-lifes. 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 are among the institutions that exhibit his paintings.

He was born in Illinois and trained at Yale University and the University of California, Berkeley.

Brown had his first solo exhibition at the Felix Landau Gallery in 1957. A year earlier, he had attracted national attention when Life magazine published three of his paintings featuring football players in motion.

Brown, who professionally went by the name Theophilus, told the Chronicle in October that he moved to the Bay area during the 1950s in part because he needed to separate himself from artistic luminaries such as Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, and Willem de Kooning, with whom he socialized after World War II.

"I moved here because I was orbiting around all of these famous people, and I needed to find out who I was," he said.

He befriended younger artists and poked fun at himself. Attorney Matt Gonzalez, a former city supervisor who had a ritual of spending weekends with Brown, working in the artist's studio and then going out to eat oysters and drink fine whiskey, said he last saw his friend on Saturday.

"I took him 36 oysters Saturday night and we shared dinner," Gonzalez said. "He had a good appetite and was in good spirits. But he couldn't leave the apartment, and he was clear that if he couldn't go to his studio and make art anymore, he didn't want to live. So it was time."

A private memorial was being planned.

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Information from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com

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