Eventually I realized that I could connect compositional elements with shadows. People thought that was strange, because the shadows were doing things that they couldn't do naturally.

Paul Wonner

Paul Wonner 1920–2008

Associated with the Bay Area Figurative Movement, Paul Wonner was born in Tucson, Arizona, and first began painting while still in high school. He moved to the West Coast to study at the California College of Arts and Crafts (now California College of the Arts) and graduated in 1941. After a brief stint in New York, he returned to the Bay Area in 1950 and received his MFA from the University of California, Berkeley, three years later in 1953.

Along with contemporaries Richard Diebenkorn, David Park, and Elmer Bischoff, Wonner abandoned Abstract Expressionism, choosing instead to focus on figuration. For his part, Wonner kept the lively colors and strong gestures of Abstract Expressionism even as he created figurative renderings. Wonner accepted a teaching position at the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1962, and by the end of that decade he had fully pivoted to the hyperrealist still lives that he is perhaps best recognized for today.

Wonner’s works are held in the permanent collections of institutions including the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and many more.