“Life imitates art” (Sorry, Oscar, I just don’t buy it)

“Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” That’s probably Oscar Wilde’s most famous expression, but I don’t agree with it. For example, how many girls want to look like Pablo Picasso’s ‘Girl before a Mirror’? No, to me it always seems the other way around. Anyway, these are a collection of paintings and drawings where the artists are clearly imitating life or landscape, and sometimes taking artistic licenses with their work. (Thumbnail images)

This one is a 1950 program guide of a pending San Francisco 49ers playing the Los Angeles Rams football game at Kezar Stadium, posted last Sunday on the San Francisco Remembered Facebook page. I wonder how that game turned out! This picture, painted at Market and Montgomery Streets, is a lot more accurate than it looks; including the Pig ‘n Whistle and Hoffman Grill.

Looking east down California Street from Stockton Street in a 1940s TWA Advertisement. This poster was spot-on accurate. (Amazon.com)

On the opposite side of California Street from the previous update is a United Airlines poster showing a disproportionate view down California Street.

I’m not sure where the artist was going with this travel poster. Based on the cable car line, the grade of the hill, and what looks like the Hyde Street Pier near the end of the line, it appears to be looking down Hyde Street from Russian Hill. It is curious that the painter put the Bay Bridge in the background, which doesn’t come anywhere near the northern view from Russian Hill, but left out Alcatraz. (Pinterest)

The view east on Market Street from Stockton Street on a rainy pre 1906 Earthquake setting by Thomas Kinkaid, and the same view on a rainy nowadays: The crowned Call Building on the right, and the Gothic looking Mutual Savings Bank Building on the left are still around


The Palace of Fine Arts; just as beautiful to visit as it looks in the 1960s painting by Tom Hone:

A lonely fisherman fixing his nets at the Fisherman’s Wharf Boat lagoon, with Telegraph Hill in the background: You can’t see the spires of Saints Peter and Paul Church from here today, but the walkway in the background actually did have an uphill loop for boats to pass under during the 1930s. (Ted Lewy)

This one of the cable car turnaround at Powell and Markets Streets in an old postcard from the 1950s is about the most accurate drawing of this set. That’s the old Bank of America, Number One Powell Street Building behind the turnaround. (ebay.com)

E. H. Suydam was an artist whose drawings appeared in two 1930s San Francisco history and guide books; ‘San Francisco, a Pageant’, and ‘San Francisco’s Chinatown’. This sketch is at Grant Avenue and Washington Street in Chinatown, looking north.

Another E. H.Suydam drawing looking south along Spofford Alley in Chinatown: The stairs being used by people on the right in the sketch are gone now.

2 thoughts on ““Life imitates art” (Sorry, Oscar, I just don’t buy it)

  • Although that second pair of pictures is very accurate, the airplane does not seem to be where it should be. It is too low there to get all the way to the San Francisco Airport to land. Where was the airport at the time?
    Thomas Kinkaid was a neighbor in town. He gave a few prints to friends who owned Gilley’s Coffee Shoppe before he passed away. He autographed the glass that one was framed in, which seemed odd at the time. Of course, someone who did not know better washed it off when the glass needed to be cleaned. One of his paintings showed North Santa Cruz Avenue where Gilley’s Coffee Shoppe was, with the Cinema next door. I used to know who owned some of the cars in the painting, although I have no idea who owned the mid 90s Park Avenue (which was the coolest car in that particular painting). Sadly, Gilley’s is now gone.

    • Oops! Sorry I didn’t respond to this comment, Tony. Yeah, the flight path of that 1940s airplane would probably have it taking out some of the top floors of the Salesforce Tower nowadays. Very interesting Kinkaid story!

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