Galen Wolf, Coastside Artist
by Ellen Chiri
Galen Wolf was born in San Francisco in 1889 and grew up in the city. His grandparents, Mary and William Griffith, lived in Half Moon Bay and he spent summer vacations with them. “I walked all over the place. I’ve been from end to end of this coast” he said in a 1970 interview with the Spanishtown Historical Society.
To get to Half Moon Bay he took the train from San Francisco to San Mateo and walked over the hill. “I guess I’ve walked the road from San Mateo to Halfmoon at least 100 times,” he said, “and driven it with a team and rode it horseback and rode it in old cars and new cars. I knew that road—every curve, every bush.”
He started painting “…in about 1900…in 1905 I went to Europe for about a year and made many sketches. I came back just in time to get them burned up in the San Francisco fire… I spent the year of 1906 down here [Half Moon Bay]. It was a very happy year. It was the most peaceful town I ever saw… nobody at any time wore pistols in Halfmoon.”
Wolf stopped painting after the San Francisco earthquake and fire. His family needed him, and the young man took on the adult responsibilities of running a business.
He didn’t start painting again until he moved to Half Moon Bay in 1932. He began working full-time on Depression-era Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects. When those projects ended he continued as a professional artist, focusing on his beloved Coastside.