In 1933 the promising career of the young Berlin artist John Gutmann (1905 – 1998), a painter and art instructor, was abruptly suspended. Realizing that there was no future for him in Germany, Gutmann sought a new beginning. A friend advised him, “Don't stay in Europe. The only country you want to go is the U.S., the only state is California, and the only city, is San Francisco.”
For 60 years John Gutmann was a recognized presence in the cultural life of San Francisco as a painter, professor, collector, and, most prominently, as a photographer. His generous bequest in 1999 to the Fine Arts Museums includes 150 of his vintage prints of Chinese, Indian, and Burmese subject matter, which were shown in 1947 at the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum. Seventy of these signal photographs are on view in a reprise of the original exhibition. In addition there will be a selection of approximately 20 pieces of 20th-century west and central African sculpture from the artist’s bequest to the museums. These compelling objects reflect his collecting perspective as a practicing artist.