Albert Tolf was an American artist, best-known for his paintings and cartoons about the city of San Francisco and its history.

He was however born in 1911 in Joliet, Illinois. He attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and the Chicago Art Institute, after which he began his career as an Illinois-based newspaper cartoonist and commercial artist. One of his early jobs was assisting Frank King on the slice-of-life newspaper strip 'Gasoline Alley' in the 1930s. He also worked as an illustrator for a builder of railroad sleeping cars, and he did scenic painting at Disneyland before it opened. Tolf didn't settle in San Francisco, California, until 1949. He quickly dropped his commercial assigments and ventured into fine arts. He was apparently a rather striking personality, riding around on his custom made unicycle around his own Sutter Street art gallery.

Tolf would devote most of his further career to the city of San Francisco. In his oil paintings, he captured the city as it was, varying from an old saw mill in the heart of town, Spring on Maiden Lane, a side street after a rain, the old produce district and the Golden Gate panorama. He also made paintings of "The City as it never will be", called his San Frantasia collection. According to the San Francisco Examiner on 1 September 1975, it included "visions of cable car tracks that start and end nowhere, and twist and wind like a roller coaster; outrageous pastel gingerbread houses tottering on tiny precipices; automobiles heading up and down perfectly vertical street, with the rest of The City shrouded in mist below." Some of these works were also sold as posters to tourists.

Very popular was his series of cartoons about San Francisco's rich history, called 'In Old San Francisco' (1956-1958). The series of 101 cartoons originally ran in the San Francisco News from 4 September 1956 until 1958, after which it was collected in book format in 1960. The San Francisco Examimer reprinted the series "as a Bicentennial treat" in 1975.

"The Mayor of San Frantasia" passed away in 1996.


Albert Tolf in 1965

Series and books by Albert Tolf in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

X

If you want to help us continue and improve our ever- expanding database, we would appreciate your donation through Paypal.