Monday, May 18, 2015

Line of Beauty

San Francisco painter Susan Swartz celebrates Grace and Art and philanthropy with a new and highly prestigious art exhibit in historic Koblenz, Germany, opening May 20.

In a legendary Russian Hill penthouse, artist Susan Swartz has created a tranquil setting for painting and working on multiple philanthropic projects. Her paintings are a celebration of the natural world.

Susan’s studio setting is in an historic Russian Hill penthouse—originally the colorful residence of the great explorer and aesthete Templeton Crocker. It was, notably, decorated by Jean-Michel Frank and is featured on archival books of Frank’s work.

Come with me to meet Susan and view her newest paintings—and to enjoy a rare encounter with an historical seldom-seen residence in San Francisco.

Susan Swartz in her studio. On the easel is her new canvas, ‘Gratitude/Spring Awakening’.

From the moment artist Susan Swartz first walked into the light-filled penthouse in an historic building on Russian Hill, she knew it would be a tranquil setting for working on her dramatic abstract paintings.

From the sheltered terrace on the upper level, a cinematic view of Telegraph Hill, Coit Tower, Treasure Island and the Berkeley Hills.

“It’s very peaceful and quiet up here—and the light is spectacular, life-enhancing,” said Swartz, internationally recognized for her exuberant canvases that capture her intense belief in the healing power of the natural world. Her art and a long roster of global environmental and social causes are her main focus. She paints every day, often for seven or eight hours. 

The custom-made sofas in the living room are by Marco Fine Furniture, a 75-year-old upholstery company on Potrero Hill. Arched windows are framed in Nancy Corzine fabric. On the card table: a thirties silver-gilt hammered tazza by Josef Hoffman. 

Dining chairs are the "Rebecca" designed by Madeline Stuart, from the Madeline Stuart Collection available through showrooms: DeSousa Hughes in SF and Thomas Lavin in LA. The custom-crafted silk and wool carpet is from Tai Ping Carpets. Swartz’s painting ‘Fading Light’ hangs between the windows.

The penthouse has nurtured her creativity. Swartz’s paintings, barely dry, are shipped to top collectors and galleries around the world. In the summer (see details below) she’ll be showing at an historic gallery in Koblenz, Germany. She is represented by the prestigious Belgravia Gallery, London.

The dramatic elliptical carbon fiber staircase was custom-crafted in Los Angeles.

“I love the freedom and intensity of painting landscapes and pure abstraction,” said Swartz. “Nature is my healer, my inspiration. The San Francisco panorama spurs me on.”

As she paints, Swartz is also surrounded by the resonant design history of her penthouse atop one the most elegant twenties buildings in the city. Covering two levels, with rooftop terraces, it was once the languorous realm of scientific explorer and art collector Templeton Crocker, the stylish scion of a Big Four family. 

The sunroom on the upper level was designed for entertaining—with an airy studio for Swartz’s’s paintings. In homage to Templeton Crocker, the original owner, she has covered the floor with hides, as her predecessor had done. The sofas are by Roche Bobois. Mirrored pilasters were designed by Jean-Michel Frank.

Designers have long revered the penthouse with its bachelor’s dream retreat planned in 1928 by legendary French interior designer Jean-Michel Frank. Black and white images from the era show sleek parchment-paneled walls, intricate straw-marquetry cabinets, obsidian lamps, and avant-garde shagreen tables, all crafted and assembled in Paris and shipped to San Francisco. In 1929 French Vogue called it ‘the first genuinely modern interior in the United States’.

In the bedroom, the headboard was custom-crafted by Marco Fine Furniture. Chair by Donghia. At the bedroom door, ‘Exploding Sky’ hangs above a vintage bronze bench. Beyond the door, Swartz's painting ‘Portrait of Winter’. 

When Swartz moved in, the luxurious Frank interiors had long ago been dispersed. All that remained were the bold mirrored pilasters in the sunroom, and a quirky Henri Laurens Cubist-style metal banister on a service stairway.

“I worked to protect the integrity of the architecture, in homage to Jean-Michel Frank,” said the classically trained artist. Like Frank, she shaped interiors in pale neutral tones, calm and elegant, that are in harmony with the sunstruck views.

The chic guest bedroom includes a Venetian lamp on a mirrored chest. 

“Nature is my inspiration, and my message is that it’s fragile and we must protect it,” said Swartz. “That belief gives days in my studio a certain urgency. I’m driven to paint. I can’t hesitate. This is my life’s work.”

Art Exhibit Details

Exhibition Information:

A Personal Path
exhibiting at the Ludwig Museum, Koblenz

Opening: May 20, 2015
Exhibition: May 21 – August 2, 2015

Danziger Freiheit 1
56068 Koblenz
p. 0261-30 40 412

The Ludwig Museum was founded in 1992 and its permanent collection was assembled by the well-known collectors Peter and Irene Ludwig. The collection is mainly post-1945 German and French art with well-known artists represented such as Pablo Picasso, Jean Dubuffet and American artists, Jasper Johns, Willem de Kooning and Robert Rauschenberg.

New Paintings by Susan Swartz

Contemplation Unveiled, 2015, 72 x 72in 

Evolving Visions 3, 2015, 72 x 72in

Evolving Visions 4, 2015, 72 x 72in

Evolving Visions, 2015, 72 x 72in

Landscape of Resonances 011, 2013, 72 x 48in

Modern Renaissance, 2014, 60 x 60in

American Art Collector Artist Focus
Susan Swartz explores the landscape through potent colors and richly layered abstract paintings. With her evocation of coastal splendor and mountain drama, Swartz follows in the tradition of the great German painters such as 19th century Romantic sage Caspar David Friedrich, and 20th century icon Gerhard Richter.

She is inspired by the intersection of art, nature, and spirituality. Swartz’s distinctive style has been recognized with solo exhibitions at the Kollegienkirche in Salzburg, Austria in 2014; the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. in 2011; the Springville Museum of Art in Springville, Utah in 2010; and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts in Salt Lake City, Utah in 2008.

Her works are in the permanent collections of the National Museum of Women in the Arts; the Springville Museum of Art; the Utah Museum of Fine Arts; and the International Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.

In 2005, Swartz was published in the Gibbs Smith collectors book Painters of the Wasatch Mountains alongside Wasatch Mountain School artists Maynard Dixon, Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran.

The same year she was honored by the Harvard Divinity School for a career that continues to blend artistry and faith.

In 2008, she was honored with the Independent Publisher Book Award for her book Natural Revelations.

The underlying energy and tension in Swartz’s work hints of her complex relationship with the natural world. She now works from a place of impassioned reverence for the earth, and of fierce determination to inform and educate.

As Swartz’s relationship with nature has evolved, her painting has progressed from a realist style to an abstract style.

A Personal Path
Swartz’s solo exhibition at the Ludwig Museum, Koblenz, displays more than 70 worksof art revealing the depth of her work and the evolution of her abstract paintings.

Contact Information:

Susan Swartz Studios
PO Box 682053
Park City, UT 84068
p. 435-655-1201


The view from the terrace includes the artful ‘Bay Lights’ on the Bay Bridge. Acacia wood globes from JRM International, San Francisco.


 Thank you, Lisa Romerein, for a fantastic photo shoot.

All photography copyright Lisa Romerein, used here with express permission of the photographer.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Triumph of Grace and Beauty

This week I’m celebrating San Francisco Ballet with Memories of a Superb 2015 Season. And Looking Forward to the 2016 season, just announced.

Come with me or an illustrated preview, including announcements of bold new works, and revivals of classical ballets of the past. It’s tutu fabulous.

Sarah Van Patten in Cranko's Onegin
Yuan Yuan Tan in Tomasson's Swan Lake

With the Sunday May 10 performance of ‘Romeo & Juliet’, San Francisco Ballet’s triumphant 2015 season drew to an ecstatic and applause-filled close.

The eight programs of the 2015 season ranged from the dramatic and highly original ‘Raku’ , to the haunting ‘Giselle’, the witty and colorful ‘Don Quixote’ and an emotionally-charged ‘Shostakovich Trilogy’.

San Francisco Ballet is one of the leading ballet companies in the world— recent recognition in Paris proved it. And the scope and grace and elegance of recent new productions offered further illustration of its quality and high standards.

Yes, there’s a certain hometown pride in my admiration. Since I was a young ballet student in New Zealand, and attending international ballet performances with my parents, I’ve been an avid follower of ballet. I’ve devoted seasons to ballet immersion in London and Paris. (Binge-watching before there was binge-watching.)

Gennadi Nedvigin in Balanchine's Coppélia

High praise must go to artistic director and principal choreographer Helgi Tomasson, now dancing into his 31st season, as well as the company’s exceptionally talented ballet masters, instructors and choreographers and the musical director and conductor, Martin West.

San Francisco Ballet principal dancers, character principals, corps de ballet and apprentices make up a powerful and emotionally engaging ensemble.

Dancers this year were technically exquisite. There was a perfection that made my eyes water, my breath pause.

On stage this year there was precision in the corps dancing--and as individuals personal style and individual feeling shone through. But there was also the frisson of spontaneous expression. I loved their refined and graceful communication to the audience.

I applaud them all—and cannot wait for next January when the golden silk damask curtains of the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House rise and the next season opens.

Come with me for a detailed preview of the coming repertory season—which includes ballets like ‘Swimmer’ introduced this year, and classics like ‘Onegin’ that I’m impatient to see once more.

Yuan Yuan Tan in Possokhov's Magrittomania

Yuan Yuan Tan in Possokhov's Magrittomania

2016 Season

Season highlights of San Francisco Ballet’s next repertoire include the North American premiere of Forsythe’s ‘Pas/Parts’ and new works by Peck and Scarlett plus works by Balanchine, Cranko, Morris, Possokhov, Ratmansky, Robbins, Tomasson and Wheeldon

The 2016 Season will begin with Nutcracker, which runs December 16-31 for a total of 29 performances. Following the Opening Night Gala on Thursday, January 21, 2016, the season will consist of eight programs, from January 24 to May 8.

“This season is particularly exciting because of the incredible diversity of choreographers represented,” said SF Ballet artistic director and principal choreographer Helgi Tomasson. “In addition to legendary choreographers such as George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, I’ve programmed works by some of the most exciting contemporary choreographers working today, including Mark Morris, Alexei Ratmansky, and Christopher Wheeldon—we’re lucky to have such a long and rich history with each of them.”

The new season will include a world premiere by New York City Ballet Resident Choreographer Justin Peck, who will create his first work for the Company, as well as a world premiere by Liam Scarlett.

San Francisco audiences will see the North American premiere of William Forsythe’s Pas/Parts; SF Ballet is the first American company to perform the work.

Dores André and Joan Boada in Tomasson's 7 for Eight 
Vanessa Zahorian and Gennadi Nedvigin in Tomasson's 7 for Eight

Program 1 opens Sunday, January 24 and includes Helgi Tomasson’s 7 for Eight, Choreographer in Residence Yuri Possokhov’s Magrittomania, and the North American premiere of William Forsythe’s Pas/Parts. Tomasson’s 7 for Eight, set to four keyboard concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach, was premiered by the Company in 2004. 

San Francisco Ballet in Wheeldon's Continuum©

San Francisco Ballet in Balanchine's Rubies

San Francisco Ballet in Balanchine's Rubies

Program 2 opens on Wednesday, January 27 with Christopher Wheeldon’s Continuum, a world premiere by Liam Scarlett, and Balanchine’s Rubies. Christopher Wheeldon’s Continuum, set to the music of György Ligeti, premiered during the 2002 Season and was last performed in full on the 2006 Season. 

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson's Swan Lake
San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson's Swan Lake

Maria Kochetkova and Davit Karapetyan in Tomasson's Swan Lake

Vanessa Zahorian in Tomasson's Swan Lake

Program 3 opens on Friday, February 19 with Helgi Tomasson’s full-length Swan Lake. Tomasson choreographed his first production of Swan Lake for SF Ballet in 1988 and in 2009, he created a new version, featuring scenery and costume design by Jonathan Fensom; lighting design by Jennifer Tipton; projection and video design by Sven Ortel; and hair, wig, and makeup design by Michael Ward. 

Vanessa Zahorian in Balanchine's Coppélia

Vanessa Zahorian in Balanchine's Coppélia

Program 4 opens on Tuesday, March 8 with George Balanchine’s Coppélia. The popular comedic ballet, set to a score by Léo Delibes, was first performed by the Paris Opéra Ballet in 1870.

Maria Kochetkova, Vanessa Zahorian, and Dores André in Robbins' Dances at a Gathering

Maria Kochetkova and Joseph Walsh in Robbins' Dances at a Gathering

San Francisco Ballet in Possokhov’s Swimmer

Taras Domitro in Possokhov’s Swimmer

Maria Kochetkova and Tiit Helimets in Possokhov’s Swimmer

Program 5 opens on Wednesday, March 16 with Jerome Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering and Yuri Possokhov’s Swimmer. Dances at a Gathering, set to music by Frédéric Chopin, is widely considered a masterpiece. Created in 1969 for New York City Ballet, the hour-long work, set to 18 piano pieces, features ten dancers. 

Vanessa Zahorian and Hansuke Yamamoto in Tomasson's Prism

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson's Prism

Taras Domitro in Tomasson's Prism

San Francisco Ballet in Wheeldon's Rush©

Frances Chung and Gennadi Nedvigin in Wheeldon's Rush©

Frances Chung and Clara Blanco in Wheeldon's Rush©

Stella Abrera and Christine Shevchenko in Ratmansky's Seven Sonatas.
© Rosalie O'Connor. Courtesy American Ballet Theatre

Xiomara Reyes and Herman Cornejo in Ratmansky's Seven Sonatas.
© Rosalie O'Connor. Courtesy American Ballet Theatre

Program 6 opens Tuesday, April 5 with Helgi Tomasson’s Prism, the SF Ballet premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s Seven Sonatas, and Christopher Wheeldon’s Rush. Tomasson’s Prism, set to the music of Ludwig van Beethoven, features costume design by Martin Pakledinaz and lighting design by Mark Stanley. 

San Francisco Ballet in Morris' Drink To Me With Only Thine Eyes

San Francisco Ballet in Morris' Drink To Me With Only Thine Eyes

Vanessa Zahorian and Davit Karapetyan in Balanchine's Theme and Variations

Lorena Feijoo and Vitor Luiz in Balanchine's Theme and Variations

Hansuke Yamamoto and Vitor Luiz in Balanchine's Theme and Variations

Program 7 opens Thursday, April 7 with Mark Morris’ Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes, a world premiere by Justin Peck, and George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations. Morris’ Drink to Me… was premiered in 1988 by American Ballet Theatre. The work for 12 dancers is set to music by Virgil Thomson, with costume design by Santo Loquasto and lighting design by Michael Chybowski.

Luke Ingham in Cranko's Onegin

San Francisco Ballet in Cranko's Onegin

Program 8 opens Saturday, April 30 and features the return of John Cranko’s Onegin. Last performed by SF Ballet in 2013, this romantic full-length production is based on Alexander Pushkin’s novel in verse Eugene Onegin, set to a score by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky and orchestrated by Kurt-Heinz Stolze. The ballet features scenic and costume design by award-winning designer Santo Loquasto, with lighting design by James F. Ingalls, and was first performed by Stuttgart Ballet in 1965.

Yuan Yuan Tan and Vitor Luiz in Cranko's Onegin

During the 2016 Repertory Season, the Company will perform a total of 62 performances. Friday and Saturday evening performances are at 8pm. New this season: Tuesday and Thursday evening performances, in addition to Wednesday evening performances, will now be at 7:30pm; Saturday and Sunday matinees are at 2pm. The SF Ballet Orchestra will accompany all programs.

“Meet the Artist” Interviews and “Pointes of View” Lecture Series

SF Ballet will continue to present the entertaining and informative “Meet the Artist” series at Friday evening and Sunday Matinee performances. The 30-minute interviews with Company artists, management, and guests of SF Ballet begin one hour prior to performance; all ticket holders are invited to attend free of charge. In addition, SF Ballet will present “Pointes of View” lectures on Wednesdays during the season, which are free and open to the public. For more information, visit

Subscription Tickets
Subscription tickets to SF Ballet’s 2016 Repertory Season go on sale on July 7, 2015. Ticket Services, 415.865.200o or Phone hours are Monday through Friday, 10am to 4pm.

Single Tickets
Individual tickets for SF Ballet’s 2016 Repertory Season will be available for advance sale online at beginning November 18, 2015 and 415.865.2000, beginning January 4, 2016.

About San Francisco Ballet

As America’s oldest professional ballet company, San Francisco Ballet has enjoyed a long and rich tradition of artistic “firsts” since its founding in 1933, including performing the first American productions of Swan Lake and Nutcracker, as well as the first 20th-century American Coppélia.

San Francisco Ballet is one of the three largest ballet companies in the United States. Guided in its early years by American dance pioneers and brothers Lew, William and Harold Christensen, San Francisco Ballet currently presents more than 100 performances annually, both locally and internationally. Under the direction of Helgi Tomasson, the Company has achieved an international reputation as one of the preeminent ballet companies in the world.

In July 2014, the Company toured to Paris as part of Les Etés de la Danse Festival, marking the 10th anniversary of its inaugural engagement with the festival. At Théâtre du Châtelet, SF Ballet presented over 20 works by 15 choreographers over a gala evening and 17 performances. 2016 marks the 31st anniversary of Helgi Tomasson’s tenure as artistic director of San Francisco Ballet.

For more information and for tickets:

All copyright images, by various photographers, courtesy San Francisco Ballet. Used here with with express permission.