A master in our midst

Triple Self Portrait by Theophilus Brown

A local gallery is presenting “Theophilus Brown: Nudes,” spotlighting one of the pioneers of the Bay Area Figurative Movement, which helped change the course of art history in the 1950s.

Brown, now 90, moved to the neighborhood in 2001. He still works daily in his nearby studio and recently joined a new drawing group.

“I paint three or four hours every day,” he says. “I like to work. I think it’s the secret to staying alive and interesting and as vital as you can be — and besides, there’s no telephone in the studio, so it’s peaceful.”

His exhibition at the Thomas Reynolds Gallery, at 2291 Pine Street, continues from January 16 to February 27, 2010.

Brown lives at the San Francisco Towers, the residence for seniors on Pine Street. “I’m glad I’m here,” he says. “It’s pretty posh. If you want to see friends, all you do is get on the elevator.”

He has found among his neighbors collectors of his work old and new. And a connection all the way back to the beginnings of the figurative movement: His fellow painter Richard Diebenkorn’s widow Phyllis also has an apartment at the Towers.

His health is good, although in the fall he had his second knee replaced. “Now I hope I’ll have a lot more energy,” he says. “I’m gonna get serious one of these days.”