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Book Cover for: The Coit Tower Murals: New Deal Art and Political Controversy in San Francisco, Robert W. Cherny

The Coit Tower Murals: New Deal Art and Political Controversy in San Francisco

Robert W. Cherny

Created in 1934, the Coit Tower murals were sponsored by the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), the first of the New Deal art programs. Twenty-five master artists and their assistants worked there, most of them in buon fresco, Nearly all of them drew upon the palette and style of Diego Rivera. The project boosted the careers of Victor Arnautoff, Lucien Labaudt, Bernard Zakheim, and others, but Communist symbols in a few murals sparked the first of many national controversies over New Deal art.

Sixty full-color photographs illustrate Robert Cherny's history of the murals from their conception and completion through their evolution into a beloved San Francisco landmark. Cherny traces and critiques the treatment of the murals by art critics and historians. He also probes the legacies of Coit Tower and the PWAP before surveying San Francisco's recent controversies over New Deal murals.

An engaging account of an artistic landmark, The Coit Tower Murals tells the full story behind a public art masterpiece.

Book Details

  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press
  • Publish Date: Nov 12nd, 2024
  • Pages: 200
  • Language: English
  • Dimensions: 0.00in - 0.00in - 0.00in - 1.00lb
  • EAN: 9780252088353
  • Categories: Individual Artists - MonographsUnited States - State & Local - West (AK, CA, CO, HI, ID, MTCriticism & Theory

About the Author

Robert W. Cherny is a professor emeritus of history at San Francisco State University. His many books include Victor Arnautoff and the Politics of Art and Harry Bridges: Labor Radical, Labor Legend.

Praise for this book

"Robert Cherny's brilliantly captivating recounting and debunking of historical and apocryphal stories about Coit Tower's inspiring murals powerfully demonstrates how that groundbreaking and influential early 1930s public art project continues to be relevant as a beacon, illuminating issues that still impact us today."--Mark Dean Johnson, coeditor of Asian American Art: A History, 1850-1970
"Drawing on artists' and administrators' letters, oral histories, memoirs, and artwork, Robert W. Cherny's book traces the evolution of the first large-scale New Deal art project in San Francisco. Cherny's work is most interesting in its exploration of such work's legacy and his argument for its preservation. In defending even controversial art, the author explores shifting expectations around who gets to make public art and to define the public interest. This well-researched and beautifully illustrated book will appeal to historians, cultural critics, and tourists alike."--Sharon Ann Musher, author of Democratic Art: The New Deal's Influence on American Culture
"The murals of California life in San Francisco's Coit Tower are the most authentic attempt to realize the Mexican model of modern mural art within the public art programs of the New Deal. In this comprehensively illustrated study, Robert W. Cherny gives the most fine-grained account of the conception, execution, and reception of the murals published to date, challenging accepted art-historical narratives in important ways. Cherny shows that not only were individual details of the Coit Tower scheme politically objectionable to conservative opinion from the get-go, but later mural schemes--notably Anton Refregier's Rincon Annex--also aroused conservative ire. Although its political impetus could scarcely have been more different, the recent campaign to remove Victor Arnautoff's murals on the Life of Washington from George Washington High School has shown vividly that New Deal public art still has the capacity to focus some of the most divisive issues in the nation's self-narrative. As a distinguished historian of California labor and one of those active in the campaign to preserve the murals, Cherny is particularly well placed to guide us through the motives that underlay the production of the murals in the 1930s and those that threatened their destruction in our own time."--Andrew Hemingway, professor emeritus in History of Art, University College London

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