History of the House and its Circle
The residence is a 1905 Arts and Crafts two story brown shingle home, which was once owned by the renowned film critic, Pauline Kael, and was an epicenter for people connected to the arts. Artwork created by Jess and David Young Allen, along with prints by Matisse and Picasso lined the walls. The artist, Harry Jacobus, who lived in a cottage behind the house wrote, “Her home in Berkeley was a Grand Central for people interested in the arts. Pauline hosted evenings with the cultural elite, as she loved the discourse of the many voices of the burgeoning 1950s and 60s Bay Area art scene."
In 1956, Kael asked Jess to paint a series of murals in the upstairs rooms and hallway, which turned out to be his most jewel-like and ambitious mural project. He recalled that Pauline left the decoration entirely up to him and that he worked unremittingly on the rooms for three or four weeks. The designs and scenes paid homage to Picasso, Braque, Klee, and Bonnard, as well as to medieval and Celtic art, which Jess had been exposed to during his previous year in Europe. The ceiling of the entrance hall had a sand painting pattern based on one in the Jean Renoir film The River, and the main wall in Gina’s bedroom was an adaptation of Anna Magnani’s skirt in Renoir’s film The Golden Coach. An upstairs wall showed a girl looking over an iron fence at pale green fields and a distant castle atop a mountain. Jess said he created this scene especially for Pauline’s daughter, who assisted in its painting.
The sitting or dressing room near the stairs once evoked the splendors of Braque and Picasso, and one fanciful wall in the style of Braque still remains in that room. Due to the structural damage, the hallway ceiling that had pictured a giant white crane with yellow stars in a blue night sky has been painted over, which is being examined for possible restoration.