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Artists biographies

Maxine Albro
California (13)

Maxine Albro was born in Iowa, and studied at the California School of Fine Arts. During the 1920s she studied in Paris, and then in Mexico with Diego Rivera, returning to live in San Francisco. Some of her work figured in a controversy apart from that at Coit Tower: four “portly Roman sybils” that she executed at the Ebell Women's Club in Los Angeles offended some of its members; they rescinded approval of her frescoes which, though intended to last “as long as the concrete of the wall lasted,” were destroyed in 1935. Also destroyed was her mosaic of animals over the entrance to Anderson Hall at the University of California Extension in San Francisco. She created fresco decorations for many private homes, including that of Col. Harold Mack in Monterey. Her easel art was popular in local and national museums. Albro was married to fellow artist Parker Hall.
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Victor Arnautoff
City Life (9)

Victor Arnautoff was a native of Russia, to which he returned during the 1960s after thirty years in the United States. He came to San Francisco via Mexico, where he had assisted Diego Rivera. In San Francisco he attended the California School of Fine Arts, studying with Ralph Stackpole and Edgar Walter. As project director at Coit Tower, he pointed a mural as well as supervised the work of fellow artists. Other works include frescoes in the Military Chapel at the Presidio; three fresco lunettes in the Anne Bremer Library of the San Francisco Art Institute; Washington High School lobby; and other locales in the Bay Area. He taught in the art department at Stanford University. During the closing of Coit Tower in 1934, Arnsutoff wrote: “I wonder why the windows have been whitewashed--to protect the frescoes from sun-stroke?” He died in March 1979 in retirement in a suburb of Leningrad.
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Jane Berlandina
Home Life (27)

Jane Berlandina came to San Francisco from Nice, France. She studied with Raoul Dufy, and having learned costume design in France, continued this work for the San Francisco Opera Company; among other projects, she created sets for Der Rosenkavolier, starring Lotte Lehmonn, and thirty San Francisco scenes for a production of William Saroyan's Sweeney and the Tree in 1940. Berlandina exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum in New York as well as in local museums, and was married to architect Henry Howard. Labaudt portrayed Jane Berlandina wearing a sporty necktie at the foot of the stairs in his Powell Street scene at Coit Tower.

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Meat Industry (14)

Ray Bertrand a native of San Francisco, was a lithographer as well as an easel artist. He had been a student of Spencer Macky at the California School of Fine Arts, where he later taught lithogrophy. In 1927, he won the Anne Bremer scholarship, enabling him to make “outstanding contributions to the development of the graphic arts of the West” as both an easel artist and lithographer. He was primarily a landscape painter. Reporting on one exhibit, a critic commented that Bertrand used “freezing blues, whites, and grays” in his oils in a “small but icy collection of arctic landscapes.” One popular lithograph that he made was Sierra Fantasy. Fellow artist George Harris painted his name as the “author” of books titled Rape, Mayhem, and Vagrancy in the “law library” at Coit Tower. In 1942 he won an Abraham Rosenberg Scholarship enabling him to continue his study of color lithography.

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Ray Boynton
Animal Force and Machine Force (1)
Ray Boynton came from the forms of Iowa, where he had been, among other things, a teamster driving horses. After studying art in Chicago, Boynton come west to make his mark as California's first frescoist. His first fresco appeared in a home in Los Altos in 1917. His later work paralleled but was not derivative of Diego Rivera's in Mexico. While teaching fresco at the California School of Fine Arts, he created the first large-scale mural in a building open to the public frescoes in a classical mode on the subject of music in the auditorium at Mills College in Oakland. Boynton became a beloved teacher at the University of California in Berkeley, where former student Mary Fabilli remembered, “We learned what to put into a drawing and, mostly, what to leave out.” By virtue of his expertise and seniority, he was the “dean of the fresco painters” at Coit Tower, where younger artists sought his expert and freely given advice. During the 1930s Boynton did many sketches of mining scenes in the Mother Lode, and after Coit Tower he painted thirteen lunette murals in tempera for the Modesto post office in 1936. He was a friend of John Steinbeck and Col. Scott Wood, among others, and helped to create the mood which he commended at Coit Tower: “the old cooperative guild spirit with all the artists working in harmony toward a common end.” When, in 1976, the Oakland Museum of Art sponsored a memorial monograph about his Mother Lode drawings, twenty-two contributors warmly remembered Ray Boynton.
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Ralph Chesse
Children at Play (24)

Ralph Chesse, born in New Orleans, came to San Francisco to become active among local artists in the early 1930s. A professional puppeteer, he worked mainly in children's theater, and sculptured wood, painted, and consulted in color and design. Knowing Ralph Stackpole, he became part of the Coit Tower project, and was assigned the scene of the children's playground on the second floor. As in the case of John Langley Howard, Chesse's Tower fresco was his first and only painting in that medium. In it he tried to capture the spirit of early itinerant primitive American artists who went from farm to farm with pre-painted canvases whose faces were to be finished with portraits of the actual sitters. Later he worked at the Federal Theater at the Golden Gate Exposition (Treasure Island), 1939-40. During World War II, he made many paintings of the shipyards.

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Bay Area Hills (18)
Rinaldo Cuneo, a native San Franciscan, grew up in the Italian neighborhood of North Beach, where he maintained a studio. In 1910 he began art studies under sculptor Arthur Putnam and artist Gottardy Piazzoni. In 1908 he met Ralph Stackpole to whom he gave his first sculpture commission. After studying at the old Mark Hopkins Art Institute, he went to Paris and London. He taught at the California School of Fine Arts, and though a prolific painter, held few exhibitions and sold few works. He painted competently and quickly as in the case of the oil painting for the Coit Tower lobby; when William Gaw could not join the project, Cuneo painted the second lunette in addition to his own. Harris has “immortalized” him in the “law library” as “author” of Prohibition-Volstead Laws. Cuneo said of his own work: “I love the city and I love the mountains. I have painted still life and portraits, but I prefer landscape. To me there is more life in a mountain than in a human figure.” Of his participation at Coit Tower he said, “We all worked in a cooperative spirit and were happy.”
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Outdoor Life (26)

Ben Cunningham came to San Francisco in 1924 from Colorado by way of the University of Nevada in Reno, where he studied architecture. He stopped “temporarily” at the California School of Fine Arts, and eventually abandoned architecture. After Coit Tower, he was an assistant art director for the Northern California Federal Art Project. His work at the Tower reflects his tapestry designing experience. Of his art, fellow artist Ralph Chesse said that “Cunningham was a good designer and meticulous draftsman in his decorations.” In an article that Cunningham wrote on government funding of the arts for the San Francisco Art Association in 1937, he said that no artist's contribution can be considered relative. “The difference between being able to paint and not being able to paint is absolute. From there on the morale of the artist is of primary importance to his work.” He is remembered by his friends as a sensitive, intellectually insightful artist.
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Stockbroker and Scientist-Inventor (8)
Mallette (Harold) Dean, one of the most prolific painters of government-sponsored murals in Northern California, was born in Washington. Arriving in San Francisco, he also studied at the California School of Fine Arts. Along with Clifford Wight, Dean painted two icon-like figures in Coit Tower, a stockbroker and a scientist-inventor; he demonstrated his own inventiveness by converting a light switch plate on the wall into the door of an astronomical observatory. A furniture designer, decorator of books, and graphic artist, for many years he created labels for the California wine industry. Among his government sponsored murals is an orchard scene in the Sebastopol post office. He is also represented in the San Francisco Museum of Art and the New York Public Library. He spent his last years in San Rafael, where he died in 1976.
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Parker Hall
Collegiate Sports (22)
Parker Hall came from Colorado to attend the California School of Fine Arts. Some of his work is represented at the Library of Congress. He was married to fellow artist Maxine Albro. His Coit Tower mural demonstrates a knowledge of college sports wherein both the University of California and Stanford are represented. Hall lived in Carmel, and preferred to keep his Coit Tower work in the distant past.
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Edith Hamlin
Hunting in California (25)

Edith Hamlin, a native of California, was one of the many students at the California School of Fine Arts who came to work at Coit Tower. She was a woman of many talents and art genres, for besides fresco she has painted on paper, canvas, and gesso. Her work exists in private homes; in post offices in Tracy and Martinez, California; and at Mission High School in San Francisco (1936-37) where her oil-on-canvas murals show “Civilization through the Arts and Crafts, as taught to the Neophyte Indians by Fathers Danti, Landaeta, and Espi at Mission Delores, 1770-1806” and “Mission San Francisco de Assisi Founded by Palou and Cambon in 1782-91.” Later she went to Washington, D.C., to paint two panels in the Department of the Interior building. At Coit Tower her subjects were recreation and outdoor sports showing duck-hunting, wild geese flying, and graceful deer grazing. She was married to local artist Maynard Dixon, noted for his paintings of the Southwest.
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George Harris
Banking and Law (10)
George Harris, at twenty-one, was among the youngest artists to work at Coit Tower. A student of the California School of Fine Arts, he later painted a mural in the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce building. Harris is also represented by easel works in the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Library of Congress, and the Carnegie Institute. He had a long career as professor in the Art Department at Stanford University. In his Coit Tower mural he left behind a veritable “sociogram” of his fellow artists by painting their names as “authors” of sometimes unflattering book titles like Rape, Mayhem, and Married Women.
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William Hesthal
Railroad and Shipping (3)
William Hesthal another of the younger artists at Coit Tower, was born in San Francisco. He too attended the California School of Fine Arts and showed works at the San Francisco Museum of Art. In addition, he was one of six muralists whom art connoisseur Albert Bender commissioned in 1936 to decorate the Anne Bremer Library at Hesthal's alma mater, today called the San Francisco Art Institute; in two fresco lunettes he portrayed symbolic representations of the artist and society, dealing with painting in its inspired and its commercial aspects. One of Harris's “law library authors,” Hesthal is credited with a book titled Counterfeiting. Hesthal lives in Santa Barbara, having retired from the directorship of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.
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John Langley Howard
California Industrial Scenes (2)
John Langley Howard, son of John Galen Howard and brother of sculptor Robert Howard, was born in New Jersey shortly before his talented family moved west. He attended the University of California and the California School (College) of Arts and Crafts, as well as the Art Students' League of New York. One newspaper account of his large mural at Coit Tower mentioned that the painting, which depicts “the mining, hydroelectric power, and orchard industries of the State” shows an “anachronistic but forceful jumble of State activities [from] 1840 down to the present.” This fresco is his only work in that medium, though he has executed many easel paintings, particularly for sports magazines, depicting fishing equipment, tools and specialized machines in meticulous detail.
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Phoenix bird above entrance, bas relief
Robert B. Howard another son of architect John Galen Howard, came to Berkeley at age five with his family. After studying at the College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, he won a year's scholarship to the Art Students' League in New York. To reach New York, Howard rode a motorcycle cross-country from Berkeley, his younger artist brother, Charles, astride behind him. Because his prominent father wanted him to become an artist, Robert Howard apprenticed himself to a house painter to learn to cover large areas with paint. However, most of his commissions employed his sculpturing talent. Coit Tower architect Arthur Brown, Jr., commissioned him to do the bas-relief phoenix bird (symbol of San Francisco's many "rebirths" after several widespread fires) for the exterior of the Tower a year before the PWAP established the fund for the interior art decorations. Inspired by the Rivera ceiling fresco at the San Francisco Stock Exchange Club, Howard wanted to paint a scene of the heavenly constellations on the interior ceilings of the Tower, but that theme was not deemed appropriate for the “California 1934” motifs on the walls. In addition to the many elegant decorations he did at the Stock Exchange and Club, Howard also created the popular large block sculpture piece of killer whales now at the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, representations of gas and electricity for the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, and a twenty-foot-high Buddha for the Cambodian theme of a 1930s San Francisco Artists’ Parilia Ball. He also exhibited widely at local and national museums. For a time he taught sculpture at the San Francisco Art Institute. He was married to sculptor Adeline Kent. In another San Francisco fresco, Lucien Labaudt portrayed Robert Howard playing a harmonica at the apex of a human pyramid on the east wall of the Beach Chalet.
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Lucien Labaudt
Powell Street (21)
Lucien Labaudt after studying in England, came to the United States in 1910 from his native France. He led a rich and varied life as a costume designer for the San Francisco Artists' Parilia Balls of the 1920s and 1930s and the Bohemian High Jinx affairs, as a couturier of high fashion in San Francisco, as an easel artist experimenting with new genres, and as a frescoist of lively and popular scenes. He specifically asked to decorate the curving walls of the staircase at Coit Tower with busy, populous Powell Street, the locale of his California School of Design (now gone). In 1936 at George Washington High School in San Francisco he completed a fresco panel called Advancement of Learning Through the Printing Press, depicting the historical figures of science, literature, and religion who could disseminate their learning via the printed word. Another appealing fresco shows San Francisco scenes and personalities at the Beach Chalet (1936-37). In 1937 he wrote that whatever government restrictions in the art projects might seem to hamper the artist, “limitation forces one to think and therefore to create.... Far from destroying the artist's individuality, these limitations give him something to fight for. He must solve a problem.” During World War II Labaudt went to India as an artist war correspondent. He was killed en route to China in an airplane crash in 1943. For many years his widow maintained the Lucien Labaudt Art Gallery in San Francisco especially for young or not widely exhibited artists.
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Gordon Langdon
California Agricultural

Gordon Langdon emerges as an almost mythical figure who came, remained briefly, and then moved on. His contemporaries remember him as “a handsome young man,” affluent and urbane, a friend of Ralph Sackpole and George Harris. That he painted murals in San Francisco in the 1930s is indisputable. He has left a legacy of three frescoes: his Tower mural; Modern and Ancient Science over the main entrance to the library at George Washington High School; and The Arts of Man in the Anne Bremer Memorial Library at the San Francisco Art Institute, commissioned, along with works of five other artists (all of whom painted at Coit Tower), by Albert Bender in 1936. This allegorical lunette portrays all the various phases of printing. Stackpole wrote that Mrs. Leon Sloss commissioned Langdon to paint a fresco in her dining room as well as portraits of her three grandchildren.

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Jose Moya del Pino
1891 -1969
San Francisco
Bay North (17)
Jose Moya del Pino an “old world” artist of great personal charm, was born in Priego, a small town in the province of Cordoba, Spain. As a boy of nine he was apprenticed to an itinerant artist who painted religious pictures of patron saints and lived by traveling from village to village selling his works to peasants and small churches. By 1907 Moya was studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid, from which he graduated with honors, winning a traveling scholarship. By 1915 he was associating with the Spanish Post-impressionists, including Juan Gris and Diego Rivera. He painted a portrait of King Alfonso III of Spain in the early 1920s and spent four years painting forty-one reproductions of Velusquez's paintings in El Prado, Madrid, and in Valencia. King Alfonso asked him to travel with the collection to the New World as a goodwill gesture. The exhibit ended in San Francisco, where Moya settled, depending mainly on portraiture for his livelihood. Otis Oldfield asked him to paint an oil lunette bay scene for the Coit Tower lobby in 1934. Thereafter, Moya won a competition for a mural in the Stockton, California, post office, sponsored by the PWAP. He later painted public art in Redwood City and San Rafael, in addition to a great deal of easel art. In 1928 he married artist Helen Horst; Labaudt has painted Moya del Pino holding his first-born daughter as a baby in the Powell Street staircase fresco in Coit Tower. Exhibiting widely, Moya del Pino won many awards for his esthetic and technical mastery.
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Otis Oldfield
San Francisco Bay Fast (16); Seabirds and Bay Area Map (19)
Otis Oldfield wanted to be a printer in his early days in Sacramento, California, and after a variety of manual labor jobs came to San Francisco to enroll in Arthur Best's private art school. In 1911 he went to Paris, where he remained for the next sixteen years; his subsequent San Francisco exhibit of European works had a significant impact on the local art colony. In 1924 he began teaching at the California School of Fine Arts, and in 1925 he won the Gold Medal Award for graphic arts for his drawing Knife Grinder. In 1926 Oldfield married Helen Clark, a talented art student of his, in a ceremony in the stone-cutting yard behind sculptor Ralph Stackpole's studio. Thereafter the Oldfields lived on Telegraph Hill, where they maintained a studio. For the Coit Tower elevator lobby of which he was art supervisor, Oldfield painted two bird lunettes and a map as well as a harbor scene with bright boots, as viewed from his studio window. A rather short, slim man, Oldfield appears in Labaudt's Powell Street mural wearing his jaunty French beret. Throughout his career he synthesized his American and French training; in viewing the two styles, he said, “We Americans can paint circles around others in matters of feeling, but we need to learn some of the others’ technical competence.”
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Frederick E. Olmsted
Power (20)
Frederick E. Olmsted was born in San Francisco. A painter and sculptor and later an architect, the twenty-three year-old artist initially came onto the Tower project to assist John Langley Howard and George Harris. Howard later assigned him the three-foot panel above the main entrance; in it Olmsted created Power, a fist bursting through a lightning jag. Modestly, he hid his signature so that the viewer can see it only by standing on tiptoe, in just the right light. He was one of six Tower artists whom Albert Bender selected for decorating the Anne Bremer Memorial Library at the San Francisco Art Institute. A critic in 1936 said of his lunette there that it was “one of the most colorful of the whole series, folk art represented in the work of the American Indian potter.” Later he created murals in the Utah State Capitol. Now gone is a mural for the library of the San Francisco Boys’ Club showing a closely packed Rivera-style scene of active boys. Students at City College of San Francisco remember Olmsted for his two large heads of tufa stone: Thomas Edison and Leonardo da Vinci (1941-WPA) outside the east entrance of Timothy Pfleuger’s science building. Inside the main entrance he painted two fresco panels showing students engaged in various scientific pursuits in a semi-abstract composition (1942-WPA).
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News Gathering (6)
Suzanne Scheuer chose to work on the complex process of newspaper production in her panel at Coit Tower. With assistant Hebe Daum, Scheuer brightened her corner of the Tower with more blues and reds than the usual earth tones of the fresco palette. Later she painted murals in two Texas post offices, at Caldwell and Eastland. Her work also adorns a wall in the Berkeley, California post office.
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Ralph Stackpole
Industries of California (5)

Ralph Stackpole grew up in Oregon, coming to San Francisco after the turn of the century. “His writing is lucid and excellent, perhaps because he barely finished the eighth grade in a backwoods Oregon school,” said one of his prize students, Frederick Olmsted. He worked with sculptor Arthur Putnam and painter Gottordo Piazzoni, then went to Paris to study at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. Upon his return to San Francisco he became part of the art scene of the teens and twenties. Remarked Olmsted,“Stackpole stretches over two generations. While I was first chewing a rubber ring he was well established making sensitive and illustrative portraits of children, friends, famous people.” He went on to wonder how Stackpole could create, faced as he was “with the necessities of both constant innovation and monumental work,” yet “his work stands all over the state, the chips forming a geological layercake on the stoneyard floor.” As early as 1919 Stackpole was creating bronze heads, e.g., James Seawell, in City Hall. Timothy Pfleuger commissioned two carved pylons representing Earth's Fruitfulness and Man’s Inventive Genius in 1928-32 to stand outside the San Francisco Stock Exchange. It was Stackpole who knew Edward Bruce and suggested telegraphing him when Zakheim proposed that the artists organize in 1933. He also introduced Diego Rivera to San Francisco.

After Coit Tower, Stackpole went to work on frescoes at George Washington High School (Contemporary Education) and at the San Francisco Art Institute’s Anne Bremer Library (Architecture and Sculpture). At the time of the Coit Tower lockout, Stackpole wrote that he wanted to see frescoes “spread all over the city; San Francisco would even be called the City of Frescoes as Portland is called the City of Roses. But it strikes me that those Coit Tower frescoes are shut up in a tomb.” A friend of many artists, Stackpole appears in five Coit Tower murals.

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Edward Terada
Sports (23)
Edward Terada came to San Francisco from Japan to study at the California School of Fine Arts with Otis Oldfield and later returned to study with Sekido Yoshida in Japan. At the Tower he painted a scene of sports activities, featuring an enlarged "Persian miniature" of polo players on horseback. He is an artist in many genres a painter of portraits and miniatures, a sculptor, a block printer, a general designer, a draftsman, a lithographer, an etcher, and a good teacher. After World War II Terada went to live in Japan where he continued to work until 1993.
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Frede Vidar
Department Store (11)
Frede Vidar, born in Denmark, came to San Francisco as a high-school student with his parents. He began painting at age twelve, studying at the School of Fine Arts for six years after graduating from the High School of Commerce. He studied with Matisse and Dufy in Paris for a short period in 1933, returning in time to join the Coit Tower project in 1934. At twenty-four he won a prestigious prize to study art for three years in Paris. He spoke of his painting as “largely an emotional matter, not a studied and carefully calculated thing,” though a local critic said that he was “the finest draftsman this town has had in recent years.” He preferred painting cities and people to flowers or still 1ife. “The fun comes in organizing the life around one in artistic form, adjusting the world to a space and a medium.” Another critic wrote during a Los Angeles exhibit in 1941 that though Vidar “is a sure draftsman and knows how to make color perform,” the American Allegory paintings that he displayed were “surrealistic jumbles” that never attained that “unity of his ‘straight’ figure or landscape pieces.” In the law library, Harris painted his name as Herr Vidar, “author” of Laws on Seduction.
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Clifford Wight
Surveyor and Steelworker (4);Farmer and Cowboy (12)
Clifford Wight came to San Francisco as a disciple of Diego Revera. It was his Communist logo that the controversy centered, keeping the doors to Coit Tower locked during the summer of 1934. In a book on Diego Rivera, Bertram Wolfe spoke of Wight as "an English sculptor" who assisted Rivera first in Detroit and then on the Rockefeller Center fresco in New York, destroyed in 1933 because it contained a portrait of Lenin. The San Francisco Art Commission said that Wight was resorting to a Rivera-style publicity stunt by using the hammer-and-sickle symbol at Coit Tower, but Wight protested that it represented just one of several alternative economic systems of the times. He denied being a Communist, saying to the Art Commission when it demanded that he obliterate the “offensive” portion of his fresco, “I merely exercised my right of free expression. It was just a symbol--not propaganda. I object to my work being erased.” Several artists have recognized Wight's Coit Tower Cowboy as a self-portrait.
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Bernard Zakheim
Library (7)
Bernard Baruch Zakheim arrived in San Francisco in 1920 seeking political asylum, as he could not return to his native Poland after World War I. An upholsterer by trade, he had begun art studies in Europe and continued them at the Mark Hopkins Art Institute (later called the California School of Fine Arts, and today, the San Francisco Art Institute). Having won by competition the first fresco project in a building with public access in San Francisco, the Jewish Community Center, he, together with Ralph Stackpole, had the prestige necessary to organize the artists to ask for a federally sponsored art project. Although he would rather have painted the street scene at the Tower, he was able to make the “innocuous” library a vehicle for the message that he wanted to communicate. On Harris's “authors” list, he is credited with Married Women. After Coit Tower, he portrayed Community Spirit for the Alemany Health Center (1934), and then undertook the four year task of illustrating the history of medicine at the University of California Medical Center (1935-38). In 1938 he painted oil murals for post offices in Texas. In 1961 Zakheim returned to Poland to do a 6- by 25-foot fresco called The History of the Jews Through Song. Toward the end of his life he began sculpturing in wood and granite in his Sebostopol, California, orchard. Continuing the themes of human suffering and protest that have long motivated him, he carved six large figures in wood on the subject of the Holocaust, called Genocide (1966). About working with wood Zakheim has written: "With chisel the artist unveils the beautiful calligraphy nature has embedded like grain in the wood.... The Sculptor's blood from wounds gives life to the wood."
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