Many of you may not know this name but you are probably familiar with his very famous painting, The Butler’s in Love, that has been hanging above the piano in BIX Restaurant in Jackson Square in San Francisco, since 1989. It was one in a series of butler paintings that he did.
The reason I’m writing this post today is because the world has lost this imaginative and kind man recently. He died March 26 at Alta Bates Hospital of heart disease at age 62. That night he had been at the Roxie Theatre in Oakland for a fundraiser where he had donated the use of a painting for a poster for the upcoming Film Noir festival. In the San Francisco Chronicle’s obituary on him Elliot Lavine of the Roxie was quoted as saying, “He was signing posters, doing magic tricks and just being the great guy that he is.” Very sudden and very sad.
He was born in Frankfurt, the son of a U.S. Army officer. He was raised in St. Petersburg, Florida, later studying art at the junior college where he was introduced to the work of M.C. Escher and lithography. He then traveled the South as a drummer with a rock band. After two years of this adventure he went to University of South Florida where he received his bachelor’s degree in art, where he did more lithography and other printing techniques, along with discovering the films of Charlie Chaplin. Relating to the lovelorn tramp this became an inspiration to his later butler series.
After he graduated he moved to Los Angeles to work as a lithographer at the extremely prestigious print shop, Gemini G.E.L. working with Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein and David Hockney. Stock already had his own style so was not influenced by these artists though felt a special affinity to Hockney because they both drew portraits and had a love of Chaplin.
Mark Stock painted in oils, occasionally mixing them with acrylic such as in the painting below. His style is realistic. He often painted tromp l’oeil paintings that truly fool the eye! Everything below is painted, the photograph, the push-pins, even the board that the collage appears to be on.
In the 1980’s, after seeing Rudolph Nureyev in Swan Lake with the American Ballet he was so taken that he began studying ballet and modern dance. He then began designing sets and costumes for several Las Angeles-based choreographers and the Los Angeles Chamber Ballet.
Most of his paintings were done in series. He was inspired by film noir and his paintings reflect this such as his many series about hope, unrequited love, death, murder. One can see a story in the paintings. The characters are contemplative. One wonders what his characters are actually thinking. At times we believe we know though we wonder.
While painting the butler series he would dress the part and take the pose and have a photograph shot so he would have a model to work from. I don’t know if he did that for later paintings.
In 1991 Mark moved his studio to Oakland to be near the Modernism Gallery in San Francisco that carried his work, and Magnolia Editions where he produced prints. While living in the Bay Area he developed a routine of painting, golfing (with a two-stroke handicap) then driving to San Francisco spending the evenings drumming for a jazz trio or entertaining friends at BIX with his magic tricks in his stylish dress.
He had a fascination with theatre, magic and mystery. This would lead him to Teatro Zinzanni where he did many paintings back stage.
His paintings have been used in films, magazines and books. “The Butler in Love” painting was an inspiration to an amusing short film by David Arquette, The Butler’s in Love.
Much of the information in this blog, along with some of the pictures, I found in the wonderful book “Mark Stock: Paintings” written by Barnaby Conrad III, Metropolitan Books, 2000. If you are stimulated to learn more about Mark Stock and see much more of his work I highly recommend this book. Conrad had flown to San Francisco, by sad coincidence, the night Mark died, to begin interviews for a new book on his life and more recent paintings.
Additional information for this post was found in the San Francisco Chronicle obituary and the SF Gate obituary and the website The World of Mark Stock.
His studio was next door to my friend and sculpture, Mary Oros, so I was lucky enough to have made his acquaintance and learn first hand what a kind, thoughtful, talented and fun human being he was. He was a painter who remained true to himself and was completely original in his work and his life. You can see why I fell in love with his work and was fascinated by the man.
The Modernism Gallery on Market Street in San Francisco, will dedicate their entire gallery as a public memorial to the career and life of Mark Stock beginning May 1st.