“San Francisco Bay Bridge,” oil painting by Bob Sockolov
“San Francisco Bay Bridge,” oil painting by Bob Sockolov

S.F. business icon and Giants patron shows his artistic side

All those years while Bob Sockolov was busy building a menswear empire, keeping the Giants in San Francisco, raising a family and winning tennis medals at the Maccabiah Games, he couldn’t just do nothing.

So for 60 years, he painted. In his spare time.

The former CEO and president of Rochester Big & Tall and principal partner of the San Francisco Giants is now showing his private collection of oil paintings — mostly West Coast landscapes and a few still-lifes — at the Caldwell Snyder Gallery. Any proceeds from sales will go to the Institute on Aging, an organization for which Sockolov and his wife, Audrey, have served as board members for many years.

Bob Sockolov at his art debut at the Caldwell Snyder Gallery on Jan. 30. (Photo/Courtesy Caldwell Snyder Gallery)

“I was also chairman of the board, and I know the fine job they do to help Bay Area seniors live their lives more independently,” Sockolov told J.

Another reason for the occasion of his first art show, at age 87, is that his paintings were competing for wall space with his Giants memorabilia at his office across from AT&T Park, a space his daughter-in-law Susan Snyder calls “a shrine” to the home team.

“I got tired of looking at all these paintings,” Sockolov said.

“I’ve been trying to get him to do a show for years,” said Snyder, who formed the Caldwell Snyder Gallery with Oliver Caldwell in 1983. “It was time. These paintings deserve to be seen.”

A packed opening reception at the gallery on Jan. 30 drew about a hundred people, including baseball Hall of Famer and former Giants infielder Orlando Cepeda. The artwork will be on exhibit until Feb. 5, and then can be viewed online on the gallery’s website.

A self-taught artist, Sockolov painted coastal landscapes and views of San Francisco in its many moods and qualities of light, including nighttime. For many years he lived in Marin, driving daily across the Golden Gate Bridge, and it seems he never tired of the San Francisco skyline. Some of his paintings date from before the Transamerica Pyramid was completed in 1972; one piece shows a view of the pristine new building from the window of the couple’s 26th-floor apartment in the Financial District. They moved back to Sockolov’s native San Francisco in 1984.

Oliver Caldwell, Snyder’s associate in the gallery, described Sockolov’s oeuvre generally as a blend of European styles including realism, impressionism, even a touch of cubism.

“I was born and raised in San Francisco and his work tells me that somebody loves this town,” Caldwell said. “He’s a good painter: he’s authentic, he’s genuine. If someone creates an engaging image that draws people in — it’s working.”

“Robert Sockolov: A Lifetime of Painting,” through Feb. 5 at the Caldwell Snyder Gallery, 341 Sutter St., S.F.

Laura Pall
Laura Paull

Laura Paull is J.'s former culture editor.