Paul Wonner at The Museum of Art & History in Santa Cruz
By Chris Hofer Borrer

One of the jewels of the Bay Area art scene is The Museum of Art & History @ the McPherson Center in Santa Cruz. Their current Paul Wonner exhibit is excellent and not to be missed.

Paul Wonner was born in 1920 in Tucson and arrived in California in the 1930s to study painting at the College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland. After obtaining a BA and completing military service, he went to New York and studied with Robert Motherwell at Studio 35 and the Art Students League. He returned to UC Berkeley and got graduate degrees in both art and library sciences. He taught at various universities in California and Hawaii in the 1960s and 70s, then returned to San Francisco where he spent the remainder of his life.

Paul Wonner’s Green Cloth, Orange Juice, Magnifying Glass, 2000

Paul Wonner was a member of the bridge generation of the Bay Area Figurative Art movement. He painted regularly with David Park, Richard Diebenkorn, Elmer Bischoff, Theophilus Brown, James Weeks, and Nathan Oliveira. In fact, in the mid-1950s, Brown and Wonner, who were partners, rented space on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley in the same building where Diebenkorn worked. The group met weekly for life-drawing sessions, which had a powerful impact on them all. As Theophilus Brown later commented, “I think both Diebenkorn and David [Park] in their various ways were a big influence on the rest of us.”

Wonner’s works encompass a broad range of styles and subject matter. He shows the influence of Abstract Expressionism, but his overall style is much more in keeping with the Bay Area Figurative artists. He painted still lifes in a modern style that were still reminiscent of Vermeer and Rembrandt. And he painted the human figure, landscapes, and interiors with equal alacrity.

The current exhibit features twelve paintings, which include Green Cloth, Orange Juice, Magnifying Glass (2000), Two Plastic Spoons (1958-1960), and Park with Women Laughing (2005). Don’t miss this wonderful exhibit, which is on view through November 23, 2008.

The Museum of Art & History @ the McPherson Center is located in the heart of downtown Santa Cruz at 705 Front Street. Museum hours are Tuesdays through Sundays 11am to 5pm (hours extended first Friday of every month 11am to 9pm).

Comments are closed.