Medicine Lake, Wash.
San Francisco artist Homer Ansley was a painter, illustrator and commercial artist who is principally remembered today for his World War II poster depicting a large artillery cannon with the admonition, “Let ME Do the Talking!, Serve in Silence.” He was born in Medical Lake, Washington, in 1895, and grew up in nearby Spokane, where his father worked a mining engineer. Ansley showed artistic talent as a teenager when a drawing by him was published in the “Northwest Mining News” in January, 1908. After graduation from high school in 1916 he came to San Francisco to study at the California School of Fine Arts (CSFA, now the San Francisco Art Institute) under Frank Van Sloun (1879-1938) and John Aloysius Stanton (1857-1929). His studies were interrupted by service in the U. S. Navy during World War I, after which he returned to the CSFA and also studied at the Art Students League in New York City. Ansley had presumably returned to the Bay Area by 1920, when two of his works were exhibited at the Sutter Street Print Rooms in San Francisco. Ansley married May Sumner Findley (1899-1981) in 1923 and they were living in Palo Alto in 1924 when their eldest son Gordon (1924-2012) was born. Ansley maintained a studio in San Francisco’s Montgomery Block Building, home to many artists. He was an active member of the Bohemian Club from the 1920s, exhibiting in the Club’s annual art exhibitions and designing stage sets for plays during the Club’s summer encampments in the Bohemian Grove. After his fellow Bohemian Ray F. Coyle (1885-1924) died before he could finish a mural for Berkeley’s John Mur Elementary School, the school’s parent-teacher organization hired Ansley in 1925 to finish the mural, which now hangs in the school’s library. The Ansley family moved to the Shoup Park neighborhood of Los Altos, Calif., in 1930. According to an oral history recorded by his son Gordon in 1998, Ansley supplemented earnings from his art during the Depression by designing and fabricating furniture and lighting fixtures for wealthy clients in San Francisco and the San Francisco peninsula. Ansley also worked for several years for the Foster & Kleiser billboard company. He served as an assistant state supervisor for the Northern California Art Project for the Works Progress Administration during the early 1940s. His son recalled that one of the WPA projects Ansley supervised was the painting of the murals in San Francisco’s Coit Tower. Ansley designed at least two “Let ME Do the Talking!” posters during this time, the other depicting a naval destroyer. After the war Ansley continued to work in San Francisco. By the 1950s his studio was at 271 Columbus Avenue. One of his paintings hung in the nearby Vesuvio Café, a humorous work depicting two photographers focused on the Golden Gate Bridge and Coit Tower while ignoring a nude woman walking towards a cable car. The painting was reproduced as a postcard in 1961. Ansley died in San Francisco in 1974. (TNB 1/2018) Selected bibliography: Hughes, Edan Milton. “Ansley, Homer,” in Artists in California 1786-1940. 3rd edition, 2 vols. Sacramento: Crocker Art Museum, 2002