Jun 152012
 
Telegraph Hill
Coit Tower
WPA Murals
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This pair of canvas’ are also in the elevator alcove.  The depict the farmlands of the Santa Clara Valley and the hills of the East Bay.
The artists was Rinaldo Cuneo. (1877-1939).  Cuneo was a native San Franciscan from North Beach where he maintained a studio.  He was educated at the Mark Hopkins Art Institute as well as in Paris and London.  He taught at the California School of Fine Arts and was a prolific painter.

This is the last in a series of the murals of Coit Tower.  There are more, unfortunately, they are not available to the public.  If you are interested in seeing pictures of them, and learning more about Coit Tower and all of the murals, I highly suggest you search out Masha Zakheim’s Book Coit Tower.

Jun 142012
 
Telegraph Hill
Coit Tower
WPA Murals
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This is the second of the murals in the elevator alcove, It is titled San Francisco Bay, North and is by Jose Moya Del Pino (1869-1969). The two young men represent Moya del Pino himself watching as fellow artist Otis Oldfield sketches what he sees below him. If one looks closely you can see the former prison on the island of Alcatraz. This too is oil on canvas.

Jose Moya del Pino was born in Priego, Spain. By 1907, Moya was studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid, and associated with the Post-impressionists of Spain including Juan Gris and Diego Rivera. In the 1920′s he spent four years painting forty-one reproductions of Valasquez’s paintings in the El Prado in Madrid and Valencia. King Alfonso asked him to travel with the collection as a goodwill gesture when it went to the new world. The exhibit ended in San Francisco and Moya remained. Otis Oldfield was responsible for Moya being hired for the Coit Tower project. Later projects for Moya included a post office in Stockton as well as public art projects in Redwood City and San Rafael, California.

Jun 132012
 
Telegraph Hill
Coit Tower
WPA Murals
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In the alcove, where visitors wait for the elevator are four more murals. This one is titled San Francisco Bay. This is an oil on canvas, and was painted in the artists studio. The two little girls are the artists, Otis Oldfield’s, daughters, Rhoda and Jayne. as they look down on the waterfront from their father’s Telegraph Hill studio. The larger island they are peering at is Yerba Buena Island. That is the island that the present day San Francisco Bay Bridge goes through. Treasure Island, which would have been attached on the left hand side of Yerba Buena, had not yet been built. Treasure Island was built (from fill dredged from the bay) for the Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939-1940.

Otis Oldfield was born in Sacramento in 1890. He came to San Francisco to enroll in Arthur Best’s private art school. In 1911, he went to Paris, where he stayed for sixteen years. In 1924, he began teaching at the California School of Fine Arts. He died in 1969.

Jun 122012
 
Telegraph Hill
Coit Tower
WPA Murals
News Gathering by Suzanne Scheuer
Scheuer worked with assistant Heve Daum on news gathering for her panel in Coit Tower.
Suzanne Scheuer was born in San Jose, California on February 11, 1898. She moved to San Francisco in 1918. She studied at the California School of Fine Arts and the California College of Arts and Crafts. She then taught for three years in the public schools of Los Banos and Salinas. In 1940 she joined the art faculty at the College of the Pacific in Stockton and taught there for ten years. She then moved to Santa Cruz, California where she designed and built six houses, doing much of the physical and artistic work herself while continuing to paint and sculpt. Scheuer died in Santa Cruz on December 20, 1984.  Other work of hers can be found in the Berkeley, California Post Office as well as two Texas Post Offices.
Sheuer’s window ledge San Francisco Chronicle front page announced the end of the art project in April, though some artists continued to add finishing details until June.
Jun 112012
 
Telegraph Hill
Coit Tower
WPA Murals
The Library by Bernard B. Zakheim

The Coit Tower murals were painted during a particularly disruptive period in U.S. History. Depression related economic challenges led to much discussion about alternate forms of government. A four day general strike (Bloody Thursday) accompanied by widespread rioting in San Francisco triggered an eighty-three day 1934 West Coast Waterfront Strike.

Coit Tower muralists protested and picketed at the tower when Rivera’s mural commissioned for Rockefeller Center in New York City was destroyed after he refused to change an image of Lenin in the painting.

The opening of Coit Tower and the display of its murals was delayed several months because of the controversial content of some of the paintings. Clifford Wight’s mural, which contained a hammer and sickle as one of a series of medallions illustrating the range of political philosophies existing in America, was removed before the opening.

This particular mural depicts the anger that the artists felt at the destruction of Rivera/Rockefeller mural and the general tenet of the time.

Ralph Stockpole is reading a headline concerning the destruction of the Diego mural. Col. Harold Mack (on the Washington appointed supervisory committee for the murals) looks on while artist John Langley Howard holds a crumpled newspaper while reaching for Marx’s Das Kapital. Joseph Danysh (later federal Art Project director) holds a paper about mortgage foreclosures. Above the window are three Hebrew letters that spell out the contents of the three books lying on their sides: Torah, Prophets and Wisdom Literature.

 

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Bernard Baruch Zakheim (1896-1985) came to San Francisco in 1920 seeking political asylum from Poland. An upholsterer by trade he studied at the Mark Hopkins Art Institute. After his work at Coit Tower he worked for four years illustrating the history of medicine at the University of California Medical Center. He painted murals for a post office in Texas in 1938. Zakheim returned to Poland as an artist to paint the fresco The History of the Jews through Song.

For those of you that are not familiar with the Rockefeller/Rivera controversy, here is a synopsis.
By 1930, Mexican muralist Diego Rivera has gained international favor for his lush and passionate murals. Inspired by Communist ideals and an intense devotion to his cultural heritage, Rivera creates boldly hued masterpieces of public art that adorn the municipal buildings of Mexico City. His outgoing personality puts him at the center of a circle of left-wing painters and poets, and his talent attracts wealthy patrons, including Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. In 1932, she convinces her husband, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., to commission a Rivera mural for the lobby of the soon-to-be-completed Rockefeller Center in New York City.
Flush from successes in San Francisco and Detroit, Rivera proposes a 63-foot-long portrait of workers facing symbolic crossroads of industry, science, socialism, and capitalism. The painter believes that his friendship with the Rockefeller family will allow him to insert an unapproved representation of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin into a section portraying a May Day parade. The real decision-making power lies with the Center’s building managers, who abhor Rivera’s propagandistic approach. Horrified by newspaper articles attacking the mural’s anti-capitalist ideology, they order Rivera to remove the offending image. When Rivera refuses, offering to balance the work with a portrait of Abraham Lincoln on the opposing side, the managers pay his full fee, bar him from the site, and hide the mural behind a massive drape. Despite negotiations to transfer the work to the Museum of Modern Art and demonstrations by Rivera supporters, near midnight, on February 10th, 1934, Rockefeller Center workmen, carrying axes, demolish the mural. Later, Rivera recreates the frescoes in the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City, adding a portrait of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., in a nightclub. Rivera never works in the United States again, but continues to be active, both politically and artistically, until his death in 1957.

Jun 102012
 
Telegraph Hill
Coit Tower
WPA Murals
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Stockbroker and Scientist by Mallete (Harold) Dean
Their are six figures that stand alone in the Tower. (You can review the first four here).  The stockbroker/banker is thought to be A.P. Giannini, founder of the Bank of Italy that later became Bank of America.  The Scientist is Nobel Prize winner, Albert Abraham Michelson.  He holds an interferometer and a scroll and stands near a picture of the James Lick Observatory which is on Mount Hamilton in San Jose, California.  Notice how the door of the observatory is a light switch.
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Mallete Dean was one of the more prolific painters of government sponsored murals in Northern California.  Born in Washington in 1907,  he studied at the California School of Fine Arts.  He was a furniture designer, decorator of books and graphic artist, for many years he created labels for the California wine industry.  Other works include the orchard scene in the Sebastapol, California Post Office.  He died in San Francisco in 1975.

Jun 092012
 
Telegraph Hill
Coit Tower
WPA Murals
The Meat Industry by Raymond Bertrand
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Notice the clever use of the window
Raymond Bertrand (1901-1986) was a native San Franciscan.  He studied at the California School of Fine Arts where he later taught Lithography. Bertrand was primarily a landscape panter, a critic once commented that Bertrand used “freezing blues, whites and greys” in his oil in a “small but icy collection of arctic landscapes”.  His name is used as the “author” of the book titled Rape, Mayhem and Vagrancy in the law library scene at Coit Tower.
Jun 082012
 
Telegraph Hill
Coit Tower
WPA Murals
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Industries of California by Ralph Stackpole
This is a vast expression of the industries of California at the time.  Stackpole painted several fellow artists in this mural as well.  Tom Lehman, a local artist, pours chemicals into a container while William Hesthal bends over a table, notebook in hand.  Helen Clement Mills is one of the women working on an assembly line.
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Ralph Ward Stackpole (1885-1973) Stackpole grew up in Oregon.  He worked with scepter Arthur Putnam and painter Gottardo Piazzoni and the went to Paris to study at the Ecole de Beaux Arts.  Some of Stackpoles work in San Francisco include a few bronze heads in City Hall, to large granite sculptures outside of the Stock Exchange, frescoes at George Washington High School and The Anne Bremer Library at the San Francisco Art Institute.
Jun 072012
 
Telegraph Hill
Coit Tower
WPA Murals
Department Store by Frede Vidar
This mural depicts the interior of a typical 1930′s department store with soda fountain and wine shop.  Some items of interest are the fact that the waitress wears a cap with a Star of Dave, (which is surprising as Frede Vidar frequently expressed pro-Nazi sympathies and even scratched a swastika on a windowpane when he worked on the project)  and the fact that one of the clerks is holding a box with the SS logo on it.  Notice the Bing Crosby music in the background as well as Roman Scandals by Irving Berlin.  And yes, all of the bottles of wine are of local California vintages.
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Frede Vidar (1911-1967) was born in Denmark and moved with his parents to San Francisco while in High School.  He graduated from the High School of Commerce and later attended the School of Fine Arts.  He studied with Matisse in Paris in the 1930s.   From 1950 until his death in 1967 he was Professor of Art at the University of Michigan.
Jun 062012
 
Telegraph Hill
Coit Tower
WPA Murals
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Cowboy and Farmer by Clifford Wight
These are four of six single standing figures in the collection.  They represent the very essence of California. The Will Rogers Style cowboy (that many friends of Wight said was a self portrait) and the farmer, that looks an awful lot like artist Ralph Stackpole.
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These two are Surveyor and Ironworker. There are three windows between these two figures. Over the central window Wight painted a bridge, which had the NRA Eagle in the center. Over the right hand window he stretched a segment of chain, and in the circle appeared the words In God We Trust, then over the last window he placed a section of woven cable and a circle framing a hammer and sickle, and the words United Workers of the World. This all proved to be entirely too controversial and it was removed before the tower opened in 1934.

Clifford Wight was born in England in 1900. He and Ralph Stackpole worked with Diego Rivera in the 1920′s. Wight came to San Francisco with Rivera to work as an assistant on Rivera’s murals at the San Francisco Art Institute. He also worked with Rivera on his Detroit mural. Diego Rivera painted a portrait of Wight into one of the frescos in the Secretariat of Education in Mexico City. He returned to England and died in 1966.