Want to see some watercolor paintings?

A gentleman named Thomas Little posted a series of terrific pictures on the San Francisco Remembered Facebook page of old watercolor paintings that are on the wall of the Fairmont Hotel lower lobby. When I went to the Fairmont last Saturday to check them out, a pretty receptionist at the door informed me that only people with reservations at the hotel were being allowed in at this time. I think I could have bribed my way past her, but she also said that there were no watercolor paintings in the Fairmont Hotel Lobby. One of us is goofy, Thomas, the pretty receptionist, or me; I’ll give the nod to the pretty receptionist who may be new on the job, and try again when things settle down. The artist identified in most of the watercolors is James March Phillips, but I don’t know if he painted all of them. James March Phillips died in 1981, and the paintings appear to be from the 1950s. Here are real life updates of some of the paintings that Mr. Little posted. (Thumbnail pictures)

Looking into the heart of Chinatown from the corner of Grant Avenue and Pine Street:

The view from Pioneer Park behind Coit Tower: Can’t see too much from here anymore.


San Francisco Bay looking toward Yerba Buena and Treasure Islands: My ship’s bigger!

I can’t leave out the Cliff House, seen from Sutro Heights. The view from the actual spot where the painting was made is blocked by trees now.

Looking down Hyde Street toward Alcatraz and Angel Islands:


Looking down Market Street from Stockton Street on the left, and 4th Street on the right: Many of the buildings in the painting are still around, the small white building on the corner of Stockton Street, the Phelan Building behind it, the old gothic looking Mutual Savings Bank Building, and across Market Street are the Call Building and the old Humboldt Building, just peeking out between two newer buildings.


Market Street at Powell Street: It’s a nice gesture, but flowers on crooked poles do not a cable car turnaround make without cable cars.

Looking down California Street from near Stockton Street: In fairness to me, and I’m all for that, I’m not always off-angle; sometimes the artist took an artistic license with the paintings; California Street does not veer to the right past Grant Avenue from here.


Also, one doesn’t leave the Ferry Building out. And you thought I was going to!

3 thoughts on “Want to see some watercolor paintings?

  • I think that paintings are more accurate if painted by people who live in the region they are painting. Anyone can paint the Eiffel Tower, but only Parisians and maybe other French People make it look distinctly Parisian. San Francisco is beautiful regardless of who paints it, and it is interesting to see how others perceive it, but San Franciscans portray it most accurately.
    Yes, people from the Santa Clara Valley paint San Jose best. Others try to make it prettier than it is, but natives are more realistic about it. It is beautiful to those of us who know it, but we are also aware that it is rather . . . well, you know.

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