San Francisco

Department Store by Frede Vidor

In January 2008, the Coit Memorial Tower was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, not for the building’s Art Deco design, but for its 27 murals that grace the rotunda and inner stairwell of the structure.

When the Coit Tower was completed in 1933, its interior consisted of 3,000 ft2 of blank wall space. In early 1934, the building was chosen by the Public Works of Art Project (one of several federal agencies that put people to work during the Depression), to support professional artists.

Twenty-six Bay Area artists were hired to create the artwork. Together, they created a unified theme of Aspects of Life in California. The American art scene at the time was divided into two distinct schools: Regionalism which glorified rural America, and Social Realism, which offered a more critical and urban view of society.

The Coit Tower murals remain a definitive representation of the art of the Great Depression.

— Abbreviated text based on the information board inside the Coit Tower building

California by Maxine Albro

Library by Bernard Zakheim

After Diego Rivera’s Man at the Crossroads mural was destroyed by its Rockefeller Center patrons for the inclusion of an image of Lenin, the Coit Tower muralists protested, picketing the tower. Sympathy for Rivera led some artists to incorporate leftist ideas and composition elements in their works. Bernard Zakheim’s Library depicts fellow artist John Langley Howard crumpling a newspaper in his left hand as he reaches for a shelved copy of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital with his right. — Wikipedia

Man at the Crossroads by Diego Rivera

A photograph of the original unfinished mural, before its destruction, was taken by Lucienne Bloch, one of Diego Rivera’s assistants. — From: Man at the Crossroads by Diego Rivera

Industries of California by Ralph Stackpole

Ralph Stackpole’s Industries of California was composed along the same lines as an early study of the destroyed Man at the Crossroads. — Wikipedia

News Gathering by Suzanne Schueur

City Life by Victor Anautoff

California Industrial Scenes by John Langley Howard

John Langley Howard’s mural depicts an ethnically diverse Labor March as well as showing a destitute family panning for gold while a rich family observes. — Wikipedia

This 10-minute video describes the history of the Coit Tower and the exemplary dedication of the volunteers of the Pioneer Park Project to, among other things,  restore the murals.

A view of the Coit Tower from Treasure Island
(photograph by Dr Karl Axel Sträng)

(Click on the images to enlarge them).