My Scrapbook: Dashiell Hammett’s San Francisco by Owen Smith

My Scrapbook

Dashiell Hammett’s San Francisco by Owen Smith

In 2008, artist Owen Smith was commissioned by the San Francisco Arts Commission to do a series of paintings to create a series of posters, Dashiell Hammett’s San Francisco, for their  annual “Art on Market Street” poster series. The over-sized posters featured moments and characters from Hammett‘s The Maltese Falcon, and lived in kiosks along Market St. (where else?) between Van Ness and the Embarcadero from Monday, June 16th, to Thursday, September 18th, 2008.


I’ve been a fan of Smith’s swaggering, pulpy artwork since the mid-nineties, when I first noticed his work on the cover of The Low End of Nowhere, a paperback by Michael Stone featuring his hard-ass Denver bounty hunter and sometime private eye Streeter.

But just check out that illo above. No, it’s not Bogey,  but one glance at the brooding, raw sensuality depicted in these pictures, and I had to recalibrate in my brain just what Spade (and Gutman and Brigid and even the gunsel) look like.

Smith’s illustrative work is a marvel of swirling, pulpish impressionism; a celebration of blue-collar solidarity and defiance that harkens back to the days of public works programs and working class murals as much as it does pulp magazines. It’s not really “realistic,” but it’s vibrant and muscular and there’s a throbbing, almost disturbing visceral energy about the way he portrays the people in his paintings. There are no wimps or delicate, pretty people in his work — everyone’s built like a bruised brick shithouse.


  • “Spade” Limited Edition Print (featured) | Buy it now!
    Signed and numbered Giclee print on watercolor paper
    Image size “20×30′ on 24″x34” paper
    “Brigid” is also available.


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Special thanks to Sai Shankar for the breadcrumbs. it was a great trail to follow…

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