On a cool and still day, sailors onboard a large merchant sailing ship leave the wide expanse of open Pacific Ocean for the West Coast’s premier natural harbor, San Francisco Bay. Past the Golden Gate and beyond Telegraph Hill, the full-bodied black-and-red hulled ship comes toward her embarcadero berth under tow power. Beyond, an extremely rare city scape-the headland view of the city of San Francisco- awaits her cargo and crew.
The prevailing thick of the bay area atmosphere casts its gray pall over the entirety of the setting, from distant Potrero Hill to the left to the flag-topped tower of the Union Ferry Depot dominating the center of the skyline. The shape of the domed city hall and another tower may be seen between these landmarks. This primary waterfront for commercial and passenger interests is directly connected to the downtown district, but by then competition had risen from the fishermen’s docks to the north, closer to the gate.
Coulter was as ever-changing as San Francisco itself, and his artistic processes evolved from his early, draftsman-like portraits to his evocative, later works full of mood and impressionist touches. Much like the city again, some things remain constant, such as his interests in all the harbor activity, illustrated with the presence of a small launch and a coastal freighter. Both his professional activities and his personal passion for creating fine art fed this interest in the nautical subjects of the city.
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