TALES FROM THE FIELD | Part Five
Part 4: Hunt for the Missing Artwork
By David Boysel
(To read the first part of the story, click here. For the second part, click here. Third part, click here. Fourth part, click here. )
There are paintings for which we have no images at all. When the Paramount’s interiors were photographed in 1932, the rooms were the focus, not the paintings, some of them just happened to be in the shot. Same goes for the following 40 years, events and people were photographed, and once in a while a painting just happened to be there. Nobody ever thought it important to photograph the art.
If I were to wish for the return of just one painting, it would be “Old Orchard, Belmont” by San Francisco artist, muralist and costume designer Lucien Labaudt (1880-1943). Labaudt knew Pflueger professionally and privately, there is a great 1940 photo of Labaudt (standing, far left) with a group of artists and art educators. You see our man Pflueger standing on the far right, and seated at left is muralist Diego Rivera, who hardly needs introduction. That Mr. Pflueger was included in a group photo of artists is a testament to his close association with artists and the arts in general.
Six paintings by Labaudt are in the artist William Girstle collections at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. (Girstle is also in the above group photo, second standing left of Pflueger) The Labaudt paintings are almost never on view, but I think their painting “Figures is a Landscape” must give us a very good indication what “Old Orchard, Belmont” looked like.
Labaudt was one of the artists who painted the frescoes in Coit Tower, and was the designer and painter of the famous frescoes at the Beach Chalet. Aside from these two iconic San Francisco landmarks, he painted a murals of historic American figures in Pflueger’s Washington High School. He gave classes in costume design from his studio on Powell Street, and later started the California School of design.
Labaudt was born in Paris, his mother was a dressmaker and he worked in her shop from an early age, hence his costuming skills. I have an original Labaudt costume design class advertising poster in my own collection.
The site of Labaudt’s early studio, before he built his own home, studio and class space in 1940, was 528 Powell Street, site of the Marriott Hotel parking garage today. When standing across the street, Pflueger’s 450 Sutter looms up behind the garage.
The Paramount’s Labaudt painting hung in the Orchestra Foyer. By process of elimination, it had to have been between Aisles 1 and 2, or on the wall where the Handicap drinking fountain is located today.
Labaudt died in a plane crash over India, as a war correspondent artist, during WWII.
The Paramount’s Labaudt painting, with its local and historical associations, would have had a great story.
Find out more about the Paramount Oakland by clicking here.