Gile’s Belvedere-Tiburon Mural

IN 1934, A down-on-his-luck artist named Selden Connor Gile was appointed part time librarian for the city of Belvedere. Reportedly, his starting salary was $10 a week, then $15 a week. Truth be known, Gile was hardly a go-getter except when it came to painting. He was the un-appointed leader of half a dozen Bay Area plein air painters known as the “Society of Six.” And in 1937, he completed a two-and-a-half-by-12-foot mural depicting nearby Corinthian Island — a place that’s half in the town of Tiburon and half in Belvedere — and hung it in the town’s tiny library.

The mural attracted attention. So much so that when the Belvedere library merged with Tiburon’s library in 1953, a library volunteer offered to hang it in her home for, as she put it, “safekeeping.” And there it remained for 36 years — while interest in the colorful painting continued to grow. Finally in 1989, the son of the volunteer sold it to an East Bay collector for $65,000. Unfortunately, the collector’s home was in the Oakland Hills, and the painting was destroyed in the disastrous firestorm of 1991.

But fortunately, the collector had a color transparency, done for an art book titled If Pictures Could Talk. And in 1994 an article by Jeanne Price in The Ark newspaper announced that the Belvedere-Tiburon Landmarks Society had printed a limited edition of 100 archival prints, of which a few remain for sale for $200. If indeed pictures could talk, this one might be saying, “On Corinthian Island, over the past nearly 80 years, not much has changed.”