William Theophilus Brown Biography

William Theophilus Brown




William Theophilus Brown, painter and printmaker, was born on April,7, 1919 in Moline, Illinois. He received his BFA from Yale University in 1941. Following his service in World War II, Brown traveled to Paris in 1942, where he studied under Fernand Leger and Amedee Ozenfant. It was upon his return to New York that he began serious study of Abstract Expressionism, and he befriended Rothko and de Kooning, who would become a strong influence on Brown’s work. However, as his style matured, he abandoned Abstract Expressionism to focus on figurative work. In 1952 he left for California to study at the University of California, Berkeley, where he received his MFA. He would soon become associated with the Bay Area Figurative movement, alongside contemporaries Diebenkorn and Wonner. and would have his first solo exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1957. 

Brown, after some time in Malibu, returned to Northern California, where he taught at the University of California at Davis, CA. between 1975 and 76.

Although Brown’s work is exemplary of the Figurative movement, his artistic development and journey are closely associated with that of his partner, Paul Wonner. Both artists were included in the historic Paul Mills exhibition at the Oakland Art Museum, “Contemporary Bay Area Figurative Painting,” in 1957. Brown continued his exploration of the figure well into the 1960’s, experimenting with abstraction, light and color.