Beginning in the 1940s, Abstract Expressionist painters in the Bay Area reinvigorated the movement by introducing the human form and other recognizable imagery into an abstract environment. Over the subsequent decades artists would come to the San Francisco Art Institute to follow in the footsteps of these Bay Area Figuratives – Swedish-born artist, Anna Poole, was one of them.
Elmer Bischoff, "Girl Wading" 1959.
From her San Francisco studio, and while traveling in the 36ft sloop sailboat she shared with her husband, Poole created an extensive collection of works that captured her passion for the elements (water and land) and the human form. In many of her paintings, the female form materializes from the sea and land as if created by it and eternally fused with it. The classic Bay Area Figurative themes of water and bathing were re-imagined by Poole with a sensual spirit and a primal energy.
Anna Poole combined hot and cool colors (evoking the clash of sun and sea), energetic brushwork and a fluid compositional style. And like the Bay Area Figurative artists before her, Poole portrays physical attributes associated with California (such as deep, saturated colors and the play of strong sunlight *). Her work might be most closely compared to that of Elmer Bischoff (1916-1991) who viewed the figure and landscape as integrally related, a single subject generated during the act of painting itself.*
Anna Poole graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute in the early 1980s and set up her life and studio in San Francisco. In 1996 she met her husband, Al. They moved into a houseboat together and also began exploring the Tropical islands in their sloop sailboat. He said, “When I took her to the tropics on a boat, it fulfilled a life-long childhood dream for her.” During their many sailing trips, Poole would paint from both the boat and the beach. Sometimes she painted images directly from nature (particularly the islands of Panama) in a realistic manner reminiscent of Winslow Homer. Other times she went deep into the water, rocks and shells, often taking the smallest natural form and giving it a mysterious, sculptural presence. In San Francisco Anna painted regularly on the houseboat and opened her studio to visitors annually during the city’s Open Studios event.
Poole remained fascinated with the human figure throughout her painting career. She belonged to an artists’ collective that regularly hired models to sit for them; and she would also asks individuals to sit privately for her. But during the last several years of her life, Anna began to also experiment with purely abstract compositions; many of which were finished but left unsigned at the time of her death.
Anna accidentally drowned in the San Francisco Bay. She was born in Sweden as Kersten Anna Maria Gunnarsdotter Nilson Stjarne in 1960. She maintained a painting studio at her family home throughout her life. She is survived by her parents, her siblings, and her husband, Al. We would like to thank Al for bringing Anna’s beautiful story and her amazing art to our attention.
Anna Poole was also a writer and illustrator who kept a journal throughout her adult life. Her posthumous book, Flotsam & Jetsam, will soon be published by Three Rooms Press.
Partial Exhibition Information: - Numerous shows at the Live Worms Gallery in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood - Annual participation in San Francisco’s annual Open Studios event for Dogpatch neighborhood artists - Two one-woman shows in the Northern California town of Bodega Bay - Two one-woman shows in the Northern California town of Freestone - Represented by two galleries in the Swedish towns of Lund and Skanor-Falsterbo
*from the book “Bay Area Figurative Art: 1950-1965” by Caroline A. Jones