98 West Portal Avenue
Corner of Vicente and West Portal
This mosaic is on the outside of the bank that stands at the corner. At the time of the commission of the art (1976-77), the bank was a Home Savings Bank. This particular mural was a collaboration between Millard Owen Sheets, Denis O’Connor and designer Susan L. Hertel.
Millard Owen Sheets (June 24, 1907 – March 31, 1989) was a native California. He was a painter and a representative of the California School of Painting, later a teacher and educational director, and architect of more than 50 branch banks. He attended the Chouinard Art Institute.
According to San Francisco Mosaic: Sheets used his architectural firm to promote and illustrate his philosophy that art should be incorporated into every aspect of daily living. Sheets designed interior and exterior plans for over forty Home Savings and Loan bank branches in California. The distinctive modular design that Sheets created highlighted local historical events or natural features, and became synonymous with the Home Savings of America. In 1999 Washington Mutual acquired the bank. Much of this original work was funded through an active and supportive public art program that was part of the Community Redevelopment Agency.
Denis O’Connor was the only child of a coal miner and his homemaker wife, O’Connor was born in 1933 in the English coastal town of Seaham Harbour. His mother died when he was 11. He earned a degree in drawing and sculpture from the Royal College of Art in London. With his wife and son, O’Connor came to the United States in 1959. O’Connor, was a mosaic muralist who executed massive portraits of idealized California life at many Home Savings of America buildings in the 1960s and 1970s as part of an ambitious public art program.
Susan Lautman Hertel, a former art student of Sheets, worked with him for 30 years, then took over his design firm when Sheets retired in the mid-70s. Hertel, who died of breast cancer at age 63 in 1993, attended Scripps College in Claremont, CA, which she entered in 1948. Originally from Illinois, she would marry, raise a family and live in Southern California before moving to a ranch in Cerrillos, New Mexico in 1980. She is known for both her mosaic work and her paintings prominently featuring animals.
There is an interesting explanation of the piece by a gentleman that appears to be the preeminent expert on Home Savings Murals, you can read it here.