"His Restaurant Front Represents the Launching of a Ship that will Never Reach the Sea"
Original hand drawn portrait and commercial artwork for Bernstein's Fish Grotto, an iconic Tenderloin landmark which was open between 1907 and 1981.
This whimsical bit of portraiture shows various humorous vignettes regarding Maurice Bernstein's life and dreams.
The image was drawn by a very young John "Jack" Moranz (1900-1980), who would go on to become a famous American portrait painter and cartoonist, whose portraits included President Dwight Eisenhower, who sat for Moranz in 1953. During his career, Moranz also produced portraits of General Douglas MacArthur, Sir Winston Churchill, and former presidents Harry S. Truman and Lyndon B. Johnson. The Johnson portrait reportedly hangs in the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas.
In the upper right of the image is Bernstein's emblematic storefront, a scale replica of Christopher Columbus's Nina that juts out onto the sidewalk. This gave the restaurant its advertising slogan of being "the ship that will never reach the sea." The rest of the image builds a sort of cult of personality around Bernstein, showing his boyhood ambition of being a Range Rider and his fishing and hunting habits. Perhaps the most wonderful of all the images is a caricature of Bernstein riding on a lobster-cum-airplane to deliver mussels and fish to the sailors of San Francisco. The small archive also includes a folding postcard advertising the Fish Grotto and three different designs of match cards that were issued by the restaurant.
Maurice Bernstein (1886-1932) was a noted San Francisco fish merchant and restauranteur who had a number of locations throughout San Francisco. Bernstein's Fish Grotto was by far the most famous, remaining open until 1981. Bernstein's Fish Grotto, located at 123 Powell Street, at the end of the cable car line, was known for its unique entrance, a ship's bow jutting into the sidewalk. It was intended to be a reproduction of Christopher Columbus' ship Niña. Inside the restaurant, the marine theme continued. Bernstein's had seven dining rooms styled to look like ship's cabins: the Fisherman's Cave, the Pilot Room, the Sun Deck, the Main Salon, the Cabin Nooks, the Upper Deck, and the Porthole Counter. The sister restaurant in Los Angeles, was also known for its Coo-Coo Clams from Coo-Coo Cove.
John Moranz was born in 1900 in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. After completing his high school education in Ohio, he secured work as a cartoonist for New York World Magazine.
In the early 1930s, he worked as an illustrator for the newspaper in Rochester, New York, where he was known as “Jack” Moranz, and later served as a staff artist for the Youngstown Vindicator in Youngstown, Ohio.
He also worked in California and was known to have been in Washington DC in 1930 and San Francisco in 1931, suggesting his stay in California was brief.
Moranz served in World War II, reportedly as an artist in the employ of the U.S. government, and was sent to France. He stated in a 1966 interview with Fort Worth radio station WBAP that he took advantage of his war service to “study every major painter in Europe.”
Following the conclusion of the war, Moranz came to Texas, first living in Houston and later Dallas. Between 1945 and 1950, he authored two major books on drawing and illustration, Mastery of Drawing: The Professional Guide (Richard R. Smith Publishing, New York, 1950); and Drawing and Illustration: A Complete Guide (Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, 1950). He was also credited as the illustrator of Men of Achievement: Texas Edition (Evelyn Miller Crowell, editor, 1948), a book containing dozens of pencil portraits of successful Texas businessmen.
As a Texas artist, Moranz gained a national reputation as a portrait painter while maintaining a steady production of high-quality figure drawings and western-themed paintings. He was commissioned to paint the official portraits of two Texas governors, Beauford Jester (painted posthumously in 1949) and Allan Shivers (painted in 1953). He produced a formal portrait of Governor John Connally in 1966. The Connally portrait along with 24 other oil and pastel portraits by Moranz were exhibited for two weeks in August, 1966 at the Fort Worth National Bank.
United States President Dwight Eisenhower sat for Moranz in 1953. Afterwards, Texas Governor Allan Shivers presented the portrait to Mrs. Eisenhower. During his career, Moranz also produced portraits of General Douglas MacArthur, Sir Winston Churchill, and former presidents Harry S. Truman and Lyndon B. Johnson. The Johnson portrait reportedly hangs in the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas.
John Moranz also painted the portraits of many prominent Fort Worth businessmen and their family members after his move to the city from Dallas about 1966. Among his Fort Worth sitters were Marvin Leonard, Sid Richardson, and Ben Hogan. During his time in Fort Worth, Moranz produced portrait commissions and western paintings, and conducted numerous drawing classes for young people who desired careers as professional artists.