The City through artists’ eyes

“Thou Drawest All Things” is a unique exhibition of pen-and-ink and pencil drawings, lithographs, etchings, oils, watercolors, gouaches and silkscreen prints — all depicting San Francisco life, architecture and  environments.

On view in the sixth-floor lobby outside the San Francisco Public Library’s History Center, the show, curated by Tom Carey, features 41 pieces. The works are from a collection of original artwork amassed over the years through donations to the center by the artists themselves.

At first, the show’s diverse levels of complexity and varied formats don’t quite register, but as viewers continue through, the exhibit grows and takes on greater fascination.

Vern Wiman’s 1945 “Fisherman’s Wharf,” a black-and-white lithograph, is a skillful caricature of the wharf, which nicely contrasts and complements Edward Suydam’s pencil drawing of a detailed environment — crowds of people, street lights, traffic and more in “Looking Up Fifth Street to Market.”

An ultra-realistic and densely detailed black-and-white William Wilke etching, “The Stairway, Telegraph Hill,” at first glance looks like buildings in a landscape. But after careful viewing, one can distinguish trees, plants and houses on top of a hill — it’s the way the location still appears in real life.

By contrast, Marion Cunningham’s colored silkscreen print “Cable Car on California Street” has an uncrowded simplicity. The quickly drawn suggestions of a bridge, airplane, church and streetcar tracks arbitrarily surrounding the streetcar give the piece an abstract sensibility.

The artworks span a wide timeline. Most were done in the 1930s, but some in the 1940s-70s. There are even a few from the 1890s and early 20th century. While the antique quality of the older artworks is fascinating, it’s also interesting to see how familiar locations have changed through time.

Possibly due to limited space, most of the works are displayed on tables under glass. These displays allow for a particular intimacy between viewer and artwork, which might not have been possible with a more conventional presentation.

IF YOU GO

Thou Drawest All Things

Where: San Francisco Public Library, 100 Larkin St., sixth floor, San Francisco

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays; noon to 6 p.m. Fridays; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays; noon to 5 p.m. Sundays; closes Nov. 29

Admission: Free

Contact: (415) 557-4400, (415) 557-4567, www.sfpl.org, www.sfpl.org/sfhistory

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