Madonna by Benjamin Bufano at SF General

 Posted by on July 28, 2012
Jul 282012
Potrero Hill
San Francisco General Hospital
1001 Potrero Avenue
Madonna by Benjamin (Beniamino) Bufano 1974

Benjamin (Benny) Bufano was a prolific artist in his time and has many pieces around San Francisco. This Madonna of Red Granite and mosaic sits on the edge of the comfort garden in San Francisco General Hospital, near building 80. The first buildings designated as San Francisco General Hospital were erected in 1872. Outbreaks of bubonic plague, the spread of tuberculosis, the earthquake of 1906, and the influenza epidemic of 1918 were all trials this hospital saw in its early years. Most of the present buildings were constructed during 1915–20. They were designed by city architect Newton Tharp in an Italianate style, laid out “with green lawns and bright flowering plants to add to the attractiveness of the structures.” Early photographs depict lawns, shrubs, paths, and palm trees between the buildings, formally designed, but — apparently — with no seats or benches to encourage use by staff or patients. The Comfort Garden is a small but well-used outdoor space in the sprawling contemporary “campus” of the hospital. It was established in June 1990 as a “living memorial” to hospital employees who had died. A name plaque in the garden, recording its inception, concludes with the words: “It is meant to be a place of solace where nature’s beauty can bring you comfort.”

San Francisco General Hospital was a subject of the New York Times scathing article about the San Francisco Public Arts Commission and it’s inability to keep track of its collection. The article pointed out that the city acquired 496 art objects for the Hospital when it was renovated in 1972 and by 2007 the commission could only find 49 pieces, by 2011 they had found 141. (There are no further updated numbers at this time)

Fortunately this one is still there and not only easy to find, but in such a delightful spot, it is a pleasure to visit.

If you would like to refresh your memory about Bufano there is a great article about his eclectic life in the Nob Hill Gazette.

  6 Responses to “Madonna by Benjamin Bufano at SF General”

  1. Very interesting. Its hard to believe its made of stone.

  2. This is really cool! Great piece.

  3. I like the “naif” style of this statue. Simple, but nice to look at. 🙂

  4. Wonderful piece! Wonder who has all the rest of the works?

  5. I was not aware of the missing art pieces over the years. It is nice that the hospital has dedicated a memorial site for its employees.

  6. Your photos are wonderful but it is your narrative that I find so compelling. Thanks for taking the time to research these pieces of art and give such wonderful histories.