History of San Francisco (Refregier murals)

Summary

History of San Francisco
Rincon Center, San Francisco (2013) - 05.JPG
 
IMG 2184 Rincon Center San Franciso Interior Hallway.JPG
 
Lobbies of the Rincon Annex Post Office (now Rincon Center) with Refregier's History of San Francisco mural series lining the frieze.
Top: View northwest in Spear St lobby
Bottom: View northeast in Mission St lobby
ArtistAnton Refregier
Year1941 (1941)
MediumMural, egg tempera on gesso
Subject
Dimensions2.06 m × 120 m (6.75 ft × 400 ft)
LocationSan Francisco
Rincon Annex
Rincon Annex (San Francisco).jpg
Rincon Center in 2008, view directed east from the corner of Mission and Spear
History of San Francisco (Refregier murals) is located in San Francisco
History of San Francisco (Refregier murals)
History of San Francisco (Refregier murals) is located in San Francisco Bay Area
History of San Francisco (Refregier murals)
History of San Francisco (Refregier murals) is located in California
History of San Francisco (Refregier murals)
Location101--199 Mission St., San Francisco, California
Coordinates37°47′33″N 122°23′31″W / 37.79250°N 122.39194°W / 37.79250; -122.39194Coordinates: 37°47′33″N 122°23′31″W / 37.79250°N 122.39194°W / 37.79250; -122.39194
Area1.9 acres (0.77 ha)
Built1940
Built byGeorge A. Fuller Construction Co.
ArchitectGilbert Stanley Underwood
Architectural styleStreamline Moderne
NRHP reference No.79000537[1]
SFDL No.107
Significant dates
Added to NRHPNovember 16, 1979
Designated SFDL1980[2]

In 1941, Anton Refregier won the $26,000 commission for the series History of San Francisco, which are a set of 27 murals painted in the lobby of the Rincon Annex Post Office in San Francisco, California. Refregier painted the mural with casein tempera on white gesso over plaster walls, in the social realism style.[3] Work was interrupted by World War II and restarted in 1946; the murals were completed in 1948.

In 1953, U.S. Representative Hubert B. Scudder opened a Congressional hearing to determine whether the murals should be removed for themes "inconsistent with American ideals and principles"; the often contentious proceedings concluded with their retention. The building is now part of Rincon Center, remodeled as shops and residences after the Post Office left in 1979, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places that year.[4] The Rincon Center lobby is publicly accessible, and regular guided tours of the murals are provided by volunteers.

History

You see, along with at about the same time as the WPA was functioning, as a purely relief program, [Franklin] Roosevelt with the encouragement of George Biddle, whose brother was Attorney General, with encouragement of Eleanor Roosevelt, who was a wonderful woman, very aware of the issues, (a former social worker) a person of great human values; and many other people who are under Roosevelt at that time, including Edward Bruce, suggested that here were all the federal buildings going up new Post Offices, Federal money was being spent. The discovery was made, one day, that there was a procedure of allocating one percent of the total cost of the building for fancy door handles, Renaissance ceilings the kind of ceiling you can see in our 34th Street Post Office in New York City. Why not take that money and give it to artists in national open competitions? This, Joe, was a great idea! It worked like magic.

 — Anton Refregier, 1964 interview with Joe Trovato[5]

Competition

The Section of Painting and Sculpture was created by Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr.'s executive order of October 14, 1934[6]: 74  to award commissions to artists for new federal buildings;[5] once the Rincon Annex Post Office was completed in 1940,[4] the Section announced a competition for artists on April 12, 1941,[7]: 2  drawing attention in the local press. Entries were required to be submitted by October 1 of that year.[8]

Refregier was selected by a four-person jury: the Annex architect, Gilbert Underwood, and three peer artists,[5] consisting of Victor Arnautoff, Arnold Blanch, and Philip Guston. The jury handed down a split decision, with Underwood, Arnautoff, and Blanch voting for Refregier, and Guston against.[7]: 2, 17, 20, 63  His competitors included artists Richard Haines[9] and Wendell C. Jones,[10] whose studies for the project were donated to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in 1988;[11] in total, there were 82 entrants for the Rincon Annex commission, including Refregier.[5][7]: 20  The contract was awarded to Refregier on October 21, 1941.[7]: 21 

Implementation

History of San Francisco was the largest mural commissioned by the federal government at the time of the award in 1941.[4] The medium was specified in the contract to be tempera on gesso, and the murals were to be completed within three years (1,095 calendar days) of the award of the contract.[7]: 22  Shortly after he was awarded the contract, in 1942 Refregier told the San Francisco Chronicle he wanted paint the past as it had affected the present conditions of depression, strikes, and war.[6]: 75  Painting of the murals began in 1946, and they were completed by fall 1948.[7]: 63 

Refregier was required to submit sketches of the planned designs for approval prior to starting work.[7]: 63  The project sponsors requested 92 changes during the design and painting of the murals, ranging from slimming a Spanish priest (#6, "Preaching and Farming at Mission Dolores")[12] to raising picket signs so their pro-union messages could not be read (#14, "Torchlight Procession").[13] An image of Franklin Roosevelt was deleted from the final panel (#27, "War and Peace") because Refregier had based it on an portrait of an aged Roosevelt after the Yalta Conference, which was seen as an "undigified way" to portray him.[14] Refregier was resistant to the removal of Roosevelt, who was to have been in the center of the middle section of the panel, depicting the Four Freedoms: "To omit the portrait of FDR from the final panel dealing with the United Nations meeting in San Francisco, is a concession I cannot make. ... I cannot allow myself to be a victim of propaganda against a very great man."[15]

During the painting of the murals, Refregier would be interrupted by well-meaning Post Office patrons, as he recounted in 1947: "One way I learn [about California history] is from the people who stream through the Post Office and watch me work. They look at my pictures a while, then catch my attention and start telling me exactly what my pictures mean."[16]

Responses

The panel (#24, "The Waterfront"), as modified following protests by the VFW; the three mourners are at the right side, and the anonymous leader (originally intended to be Harry Bridges) is in the center. The mourner in the tan suit has had his hat removed.[17]

The History of San Francisco murals created a heated debate because they depicted controversial events from California's past, painted in a public building using taxpayer funds. People believed that it "placed disproportionate emphasis on violence, racial hatred, and class struggle."[18] Even before Refregier finished, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) were protesting the murals in spring 1948, specifically the panel depicting the 1934 West Coast waterfront strike (#24, "The Waterfront"),[6]: 75  as one of the mourners was pictured with a VFW hat; VFW quartermaster adjutant H.M. "Sam" Herman went on to attack Refregier's politics and questioned the significance of the strike: "Surely there was nothing of historical significance in the waterfront riot to warrant its being commemorated as an outstanding event in the history of our city."[17] Refregier originally had intended to depict Harry Bridges as the union leader, but changed the original design to make the leader anonymous.[17] In response, the Public Building Administration ordered that panel covered, a decision that drew protest from the CIO longshoremen[19] and artists' organizations.[20]

As a compromise, Refregier removed the hat altogether, and the panel was allowed to be shown.[12] In his private notes, Refregier despaired: "The stories in the Hearst press brought out gangs of hoodlums who were constantly under my scaffolding and I no longer worked after the sun set."[6]: 75 

That fall, Waldo F. Postel and his colleagues in the Native Sons of the Golden West announced they would begin campaigning for the removal of the murals: "Just what sort of paintings are these? The Communist People's World say they constitute 'a monumental series depicting California history.' We believe they constitute a monumental insult to the city, and in some panels, an outrageous attempt to arouse class hatred."[21] Sculptor Haig Patigian called the murals 'debased' while supporting their removal.[22]

I wish to thank you for your letter as to whether anything can be done about the removal of Communist art in [the Rincon Annex Post Office] ... I realize that some objectionable art, of a subversive nature, has been allowed to go into federal buildings in many parts of the country ... At such a time as we may have a change in the Administration and in the majority of Congress, I believe a committee should make a thorough investigation of this type of art in government buildings with the view to obtaining removal of all that is found to be inconsistent with American ideals and principles.

 — Congressman Richard Nixon, Letter to C.E. Plant, July 18, 1949[14]

Republican Congressmen Hubert B. Scudder and Richard Nixon were involved in Congressional attempts to have the work removed. They claimed it had a communistic tone and "defamed pioneers and reflected negatively on California's past." Many believed that "no artist, however distinguished, escaped the heavy, if well meaning, hand of federal supervision."[18]

In a letter to the editor in 1952, the President of the College Art Association noted that "the pro-Chinese sentiments of one section of the murals and indication of the then existing wartime alliance with Russia of another section reflected the realities of the time."

1953 Congressional hearing

Congressman Scudder introduced H.J.Res. 211 on March 5, 1953,[14] calling the murals "an insult to the state, an insult to the intelligence of the public, and anti-American", adding "the murals contain subtle ridicule of characters which are supposed to represent the American people."[23]

A hearing on the bill was held on May 1 of that year by the Subcommittee on Public Buildings and Grounds of the United States House Committee on Public Works.[7]: 1  Scudder kicked off the meeting by reading a biographical sketch of Refregier into the record, sent from the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) on April 16, and added that opposition to the murals went back as far as 1941; he had been receiving letters opposed to the murals since his first year in Congress, 1949, sent from organizations like the Native Sons of the Golden West and the American Legion, who claimed the murals "do not truly depict the romance and glory of early California history; but on the contrary cast a most derogatory and improper reflection upon the character of the pioneers, and that other murals are definitely subversive and designed to spread communistic propaganda and tend to promote racial hatred and class warfare".[7]: 2–4 

#15 "Pioneers Receiving Mail", derided by Congressman Hubert Scudder in 1953 for showing a "moronic assemblage of people".[7]: 29–33 

Congressman Donald L. Jackson was the next witness to be called. Jackson had replaced Nixon on HUAC after the latter's Senate election, but Jackson claimed he was not officially representing HUAC interests for the subcommittee hearing, despite reading additional details about Refregier's activities both before and after the completion of the murals into the record. Under questioning from Subcommittee Chairman James C. Auchincloss, Jackson admitted he had "seen photographic duplications" but had "not personally seen the murals" before calling them "not truly representative of the history of California", adding "if they were in the Capitol of the United States I would join in protesting them." The HUAC dossiers of Arnautoff and Blanch, the jurors supporting the selection of Refregier, were also read into the record; it was noted that Guston, who had opposed the selection, did not have a HUAC record.[7]: 10–17  Scudder then passed around black-and-white photographs of the murals and provided specific criticism for each one, singling out the depiction of indigenous people ("strong features, muscles, and physique ... [not] a true picture of the aborigines of the West"), Spanish explorers and priests ("big-bellied", "warlike", and "objectionable to people who appreciate ... those who developed California and brought civilization to the west coast"), pioneer settlers ("cadaverous, soulless Americans" and a "moronic assemblage of people"), and gold miners ("depicting the thing which the Communists claim, we are only seeking the golden riches in our mode of life"), among others.[7]: 29–33 

I am much distressed about the Bill introduced by Congressman Scudder to authorize the removal of your murals in the Rincon Annex Post Office. This seems to me a highly injurious proposal. It is injurious because it would mean the destruction of what, to judge from my recollection of your sketches and from reproductions of the finished murals, is a remarkable work of art, and an outstanding example of the growing tendency in your country to try to exert political control over freedom of thought and expression, and to impair the liberty of the creative artist ... The lamentable state of biology and philosophy in the U.S.S.R. shows what happens when creative thought and expression is subjected to control on political or ideological grounds. It is most unfortunate that, just when the free world is protesting against this form of tyranny in the Iron Curtain countries, actions like that of Republican Scudder are trying to introduce a similar tyranny in your great country.

 — Julian Huxley, Letter to Anton Refregier, April 18, 1953[6]: 83–84  [14]

In defense of the murals, John F. Shelley and William S. Mailliard, the two congressmen representing San Francisco, questioned the attacks on the historical accuracy of the murals and whether they were truly glorifying subversive themes.[7]: 42–54, 54–60  Questioning the presence of hammer and sickle imagery in the final panel (#27, "War and Peace") Subcommittee Member J. Harry McGregor had a brief exchange with Mailliard:

 McGregor: You do not consider that [the USSR is] an Allied Power now?
 Mailliard: When the paintings were done.
 McGregor: Times have changed and maybe we should change the paintings.
 Mailliard: Probably we should destroy the works of Michelangelo and those of a few other people.

— Subcommittee meeting, May 1, 1953[7]: 58 

Later in the defense, a statement from Warren Howell was read into the record, providing "recognizable sources which are authoritative and authentic" for many of the scenes depicted in the murals.[7]: 63  The murals were also vigorously defended by a group of artists and museum directors, including the directors of three prominent San Francisco art museums wrote statements supporting the artistic merit of the murals: Walter Heil (Director of the de Young Museum), Thomas Carr Howe Jr. (California Palace of the Legion of Honor), and Grace McCann Morley (San Francisco Museum of Art).[7]: 63–64  Howe added that due to the delicate egg tempera technique used, the murals could not be removed without great care and expense.[7]: 68  A list of more than 300 citizens and organizations opposing the removal included support from the Museum of Modern Art (New York), American Federation of Arts, and Artists' Equity.[14] Mailliard said the selection of Refregier was "unfortunate", but added "Many of these arguments for and against removal of the murals seem to me to be without validity. ... Judging either the painter or the style of art used would be putting the Congress in the same position as the totalitarian governments who refuse to allow music to be played if the composer's politics do not suit them."[7]: 54  [24]

Scudder's bill never made it out of committee,[14] despite a vote of support from the California State Senate.[25] A local newspaper, the Sausalito News, chided Scudder to "leave the S.F. Postoffice Murals alone and come back into your own bailiwick".[26] While running for re-election in 1954, Scudder's opponent Max Kortum noted that Scudder was best known for failing to remove the murals,[27] calling him a misguided patriot and comparing him to "a child who marches in a parade holding up the American flag".[28] Scudder won re-election and continued to insist the murals were "very obnoxious to people in the area", claiming that an analysis showed parts of them were "definitely Communist propaganda" in 1957.[29]

Preservation and restoration

All of the mail collected in San Francisco was taken to Rincon Annex for distribution.[30] After the Post Office moved the mail distribution facilities to India Basin, vacating the space in 1979, preservationists including Emmy Lou Packard rallied again to save the murals;[6]: 89  the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places that year.[4][31] San Francisco named added the building to its Designated Landmarks (#107) in 1980.[32] A proposed conversion to what would become the Rincon Center shopping, dining, and residential complex was unveiled in 1983; under the proposal, the building's exterior and interior would be preserved intact while adding two floors and two towers.[33]

During the conversion, Thomas Portué restored the murals in 1987.[6]: 89  Portué again restored the murals in 2014,[34] alongside his daughter Nicole,[35] and is the ongoing custodian of the murals.[36]

Design

Diagram of mural locations

The mural consists of 27 panels, totaling 400 feet (120 m) long by 6 feet 9 inches (2.06 m) high, completely covering the frieze of the L-shaped lobby. The lobby consists of two hallways set at right angles to each other; the longer hallway, 208-foot (63 m) long, is parallel to Mission Street, and the shorter hallway is parallel to Spear.[4] The ceiling height is 25 feet (7.6 m).[32] The commission of US$26,000 (equivalent to $457,000 in 2020) was based on the standard rate of ten dollars per square foot.[4]

Subjects

The mural panels depicted various historical events from California's past, and was meant to span all of human history, from an early Native American creating art (#1, planned title: "In the Beginning, Waters Covered All Earth Except Mount Diabalo [sic]") to the Golden Gate International Exposition (#26, planned title: "Chinatown—The Fair, 1946").[6]: 75  In between, other panels would include the California Gold Rush, the 1877 anti-Chinese Sand Lot riots, the 1860s building by Union Pacific of the western First Transcontinental Railroad, the disastrous 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, the trial of trade unionist Tom Mooney for the Preparedness Day Bombing, the 1934 San Francisco Waterfront Strike, the city's Second World War contributions, culminating in the 1945 signing of the United Nations Charter in the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House.[3]

Refregier used these topics, including the tragedies, as inspiration. Refregier "believed that art must address itself to contemporary issues and that a mural painting in particular must not be 'banal, decorative embellishment', but a 'meaningful, significant, powerful plastic statement based on the history and lives of the people'".[18] As Brian N. Wallis noted in a 1977 catalog of Refregier's work, "Refregier had recourse to two interpretations of California history, these being the glorious, romantic vision of folk tales, or the realistic depiction of the hardships and struggles of the early settlers. Refregier selected the realistic representation as being more interesting and more dramatic. This deviation from the accepted, or preferred, view of history was the source of much of the dispute over the murals".[32] Some suspected Refregier of being a communist because of his Russian–USSR background, and his mural topics about social issues.[18]

Titles and subjects of the History of San Francisco murals
Panel No.[a] Image[b] Title Planned Width[c] Planned Location[7]: 22  Subjects / Events / Context
Planned[7]: 22  NRIS[4] Alternate[37]
1 "In the Beginning, Waters Covered All Earth Except Mount Diabalo [sic]" "A California Indian Creates" 7 ft
2.1 m
Mission Street Lobby, southeast wall
2 "To the Costanoas There Was No Land Beyond the Bay" "Indians by the Golden Gate" 16 ft 4 in
4.98 m
3 IMG 2181 sir francis drake by Anton Refregier Rincon Center San Francisco.JPG "1579—Drake" "Sir Francis Drake" 7 ft
2.1 m
4 History of San Francisco mural "Conquistadors Discover the Pacific" by Anton Refregier at Rincon Annex Post Office located near the Embarcadero at 101 Spear Street, San Francisco, California LCCN2013630290.tif "Spain Claims the Bay" "Conquistadores Discover the Pacific" 16 ft 4 in
4.98 m
5 History of San Francisco mural "Monks Building the Mission" by Anton Refregier at Rincon Annex Post Office located near the Embarcadero at 101 Spear Street, San Francisco, California LCCN2013630291.tif "1776—Building the Mission Dolores" "Monks Building the Missions" 7 ft
2.1 m
6 History of San Francisco mural "Preaching and Farming at Mission Dolores" by Anton Refregier at Rincon Annex Post Office located near the Embarcadero at 101 Spear Street, San Francisco, California LCCN2013630288.tif "Mission" "Preaching and Farming at Mission Dolores" 16 ft 4 in
4.98 m
7 History of San Francisco mural "Fort Ross" by Anton Refregier at Rincon Annex Post Office located near the Embarcadero at 101 Spear Street, San Francisco, California LCCN2013630289.tif "'Fort Ross'—Russian Trading Post" "Fort Ross–Russian Trade Post" 7 ft
2.1 m
8 History of San Francisco mural "Hardships on the Emigrant Trail" by Anton Refregier at Rincon Annex Post Office located near the Embarcadero at 101 Spear Street, San Francisco, California LCCN2013630287.tif "Overland Trek Westward" "Hardships of the Emigrant Trail" 16 ft 4 in
4.98 m
9 History of San Francisco mural "An Early Newspaper Office" by Anton Refregier at Rincon Annex Post Office located near the Embarcadero at 101 Spear Street, San Francisco, California LCCN2013630286.tif "1847—Printing California Star" "An Early Newspaper Office" 7 ft
2.1 m
10 History of San Francisco mural "Raising the Bear Flag" by Anton Refregier at Rincon Annex Post Office located near the Embarcadero at 101 Spear Street, San Francisco, California LCCN2013630285.tif "1846—California Becomes an Independent Republic" "Raising the Bear Flag" 16 ft 4 in
4.98 m
11 "Gold Discovered at Sutter's Mill" "Finding Gold at Sutter's Mill" 7 ft
2.1 m
12 History of San Francisco mural "Miners Panning Gold" by Anton Refregier at Rincon Annex Post Office located near the Embarcadero at 101 Spear Street, San Francisco, California LCCN2013630284.tif "Gold Rush" "Miners Panning Gold" 16 ft 4 in
4.98 m
13 History of San Francisco mural "Arrival by Ship" by Anton Refregier at Rincon Annex Post Office located near the Embarcadero at 101 Spear Street, San Francisco, California LCCN2013630283.tif "Migration" "Arrival by Ship" 7 ft
2.1 m
14 History of San Francisco mural "Torchlight Procession" by Anton Refregier at Rincon Annex Post Office located near the Embarcadero at 101 Spear Street, San Francisco, California LCCN2013630301.tif "Importation of Chinese Labor"[d] "Torchlight Parade" "Torchlight Procession" 5 ft 5 in
1.65 m
Spear Street Lobby, northeast wall
15 History of San Francisco mural "Pioneers Receiving Mail" by Anton Refregier, at Rincon Annex Post Office located near the Embarcadero at 101 Spear Street, San Francisco, California LCCN2013630280.tif "Waiting for Mail" "Pioneers Receiving Mail" 15 ft 6 in
4.72 m
16 History of San Francisco mural by Anton Refregier at Rincon Annex Post Office located near the Embarcadero at 101 Spear Street, San Francisco, California LCCN2013630281.tif "Clearing the Ground" "Building the Railroad"[e] 3 ft 1 in
0.94 m
17 History of San Francisco mural "Vigilante Days" by Anton Refregier at Rincon Annex Post Office located near the Embarcadero at 101 Spear Street, San Francisco, California LCCN2013630282.tif "Building the Union Pacific"[f] "Vigilante Days"[g] 20 ft 6 in
6.25 m
Spear Street Lobby, southeast wall
18 "Surveyor" "Civil War Issues" "Riot Scene, Civil War Days" 8 ft
2.4 m
Spear Street Lobby, southwest wall
19 History of San Francisco mural "Beating the Chinese" by Anton Refregier at Rincon Annex Post Office located near the Embarcadero at 101 Spear Street, San Francisco, California LCCN2013630300.tif "1870—Embarcadero" "The Sand Lot Riots of 1870" "Beating the Chinese"[h] 17 ft 4 in
5.28 m
20 History of San Francisco mural "San Francisco as a Cultural Center" by Anton Refregier at Rincon Annex Post Office located near the Embarcadero at 101 Spear Street, San Francisco, California LCCN2013630297.tif "Expansion of the City" "San Francisco as a Cultural Center"[i] 7 ft 2 in
2.18 m
21 History of San Francisco mural "Earthquake and Fire of 1906" by Anton Refregier at Rincon Annex Post Office located near the Embarcadero at 101 Spear Street, San Francisco, California LCCN2013630296.tif "Cable Car" "Earthquake and Fire of 1906"[j] 7 ft 6 in
2.29 m
Mission Street Lobby, northwest wall
22 History of San Francisco mural "Reconstruction After the Fire" by Anton Refregier at Rincon Annex Post Office located near the Embarcadero at 101 Spear Street, San Francisco, California LCCN2013630295.tif "Luther Burbank"[k] "Reconstruction After the Fire"[l] 18 ft 6 in
5.64 m
23 "1906—The Great Earthquake and Fire"[m] "The Mooney Case" 46 ft
14 m
24 History of San Francisco mural "The Waterfront" by Anton Refregier at Rincon Annex Post Office located near the Embarcadero at 101 Spear Street, San Francisco, California LCCN2013630294.tif "1916—Preparedness Day"[n] "The Waterfront–1934" 16 ft
4.9 m
25 History of San Francisco mural "Building the Golden Gate" by Anton Refregier at Rincon Annex Post Office located near the Embarcadero at 101 Spear Street, San Francisco, California LCCN2013630293.tif "Maritime and General Strike"[o] "Building the Golden Gate Bridge" 16 ft
4.9 m
26 "Chinatown—The Fair, 1946"[p] "Shipyards during the War" 48 ft 5 in
14.76 m
27 History of San Francisco mural "War and Peace" by Anton Refregier at Rincon Annex Post Office located near the Embarcadero at 101 Spear Street, San Francisco, California LCCN2013630292.tif "1933—Building Golden Gate Bridge"[q] "War and Peace" 20 ft 7 in
6.27 m
Mission Street Lobby, northeast wall
Notes
  1. ^ Numbered consecutively from left to right, starting from the panel to the right of the corner between the northeast and southeast walls of the Mission Street lobby.
  2. ^ Images for Panels #4–10;12–17;18–22;24;25;27: Photographed by Carol M. Highsmith in 2012.
  3. ^ Height of each mural was 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m).[7]: 22 
  4. ^ Themes incorporated into Panel #16, "Building the Railroad".
  5. ^ Panel #16, "Building the Railroad" is on the southeast wall of the Spear Street lobby. The narrow width originally allotted to #16 was used in "Building the Railroad", which wraps around to the adjacent northeast and southwest walls.
  6. ^ The planned position for this panel was moved up to Panel #16.
  7. ^ #17, "Vigilante Days" is on the southwest wall of the Spear Street lobby.
  8. ^ Panel #19, "Beating the Chinese" is on the northwest wall of the Mission Street lobby, occupying the narrower space originally intended for #21.
  9. ^ Panel #20, "San Francisco as a Cultural Center" is on the northwest wall of the Mission Street Lobby, occupying the wider space originally intended for #22.
  10. ^ Panel #21, "Earthquake and Fire of 1906" occupies part of the very wide space originally intended for #23.
  11. ^ Burbank is now depicted in Panel #20, "San Francisco as a Cultural Center"
  12. ^ Panel #22, "Reconstruction After the Fire" occupies part of the very wide space originally intended for #23.
  13. ^ Themes and the space from the original design were reused in #21 and #22.
  14. ^ Themes for this were moved up to Panel #23.
  15. ^ Themes for this were moved up to Panel #24.
  16. ^ Originally intended to depict the 1939–40 Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island as the final panel; the panel (but not the theme) was moved to #27.
  17. ^ Original themes were moved up to Panel #25.

Style

The style of this historic mural had many of Refregier's key characteristics. The palette was composed of yellows, browns, and grays, punctuated by red in certain areas to evoke emotion. Earthy tones and the lack of bright colors remind viewers of the struggles and hardships he is depicting. Refregier also uses white to represent virtue in those inspired by a cause. His style is very flat and one-dimensional. He uses solid blocks of color to denote shadows, along with depth and shade. His painting style appears to be very rudimentary and simple, but complex because of the way he uses color to evoke emotion and powerful images to tell a story.[3]

In other media

  • The cover art for In the Interest of Others: Organizations and Social Activism (by John Ahlquist and Margaret Levi, 2013) is derived from Panel #24 ("The Waterfront"),[38] via a simplified silkscreen print prepared c.1949,[39] itself notable as the most widely reproduced print of the mural set.[3]

References

  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  2. ^ "City of San Francisco Designated Landmarks". City of San Francisco. Retrieved 2012-10-21.
  3. ^ a b c d Sawyer, Michelle. "Anton Refregier: Renaissance Man of WPA". Archived from the original on 27 September 2007.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "National Register Information System – Rincon Annex (#79000537)". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. November 2, 2013. Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d Anton Refregier (November 5, 1964). "Oral history interview with Anton Refregier" (Interview). Interviewed by Joseph Trovato. Archives of American Art, New Deal and the Arts Oral History Project, Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Brechin, Gray (1996). "Politics and Modernism: The Trial of the Rincon Annex Murals". In Karlstrom, Paul J. (ed.). On the Edge of America: California Modernist Art, 1900–1950. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. pp. 68–89. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Rincon Annex Murals, San Francisco: Hearing before the Subcommittee on Public Buildings and Grounds of the Committee on Public Works, House of Representatives, Eighty-Third Congress, First Session. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. May 1, 1953. Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  8. ^ "$26,000 Offer For 27 Murals". San Francisco Examiner. May 26, 1941. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  9. ^ "Richard Haines (1906-1984)". Anderson Shea Art Appraisals. Archived from the original on February 14, 2010.
  10. ^ "Rincon Annex Murals – San Francisco CA". The Living New Deal. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  11. ^ "Wendell Jones". Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  12. ^ a b Casey, Cindy (November 20, 2011). "Rincon Annex Murals". Art and Architecture SF. Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  13. ^ Spoor, Rob. "Art (and History) on Trial: Historic Murals of Rincon Center". San Francisco City Guides. Archived from the original on March 4, 2013.
  14. ^ a b c d e f Hauptman, William (October 1973). "The Suppression of Art in the McCarthy Decade". ArtForum. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  15. ^ "Artist Ordered To Erase Portrait Of FDR From Post Office Mural". The Gazette and Daily. November 15, 1947. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  16. ^ Fried, Alexander (July 13, 1947). "Post Office Murals Depict California". San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  17. ^ a b c "Vet Chiefs Score Mural In Rincon Post Office". San Francisco Examiner. March 17, 1948. Retrieved 19 February 2021. reproduction of the panel (#24, "The Waterfront") accompanying the article
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  19. ^ "Battle Opens Over Mural". Madera Tribune. April 12, 1948. Retrieved 16 February 2021.
  20. ^ "Destruction of Murals Protested". The Baltimore Sun. May 24, 1948. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  21. ^ Cook, Gale (October 24, 1948). "Fight on 'Red' Rincon Murals Starts Anew". San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved 18 February 2021. Article continuation
  22. ^ "Rincon Murals 'Debased,' Famed S.F. Sculptor Says". San Francisco Examiner. October 28, 1948. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  23. ^ "Scudder Seeks Removal Of Subversive Murals". Daily Independent Journal. March 6, 1953. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  24. ^ "Rincon Annex Mural Debate". San Francisco Examiner. AP. May 2, 1953. Retrieved 19 February 2021. article continuation
  25. ^ "Senate News". San Francisco Examiner. June 11, 1953. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  26. ^ "S.F. Can Settle Her Own Mural Hash". Sausalito News. May 7, 1953. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  27. ^ "Kortum raps opponent on failure to aid Ike". Mill Valley Record. June 4, 1954. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  28. ^ "Kortum Tabs Opponent Immature, Isolationist". Mill Valley Record. April 9, 1954. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  29. ^ Pearson, Drew (March 13, 1957). "Merry-go-round". Madera Tribune. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  30. ^ Final Environmental Impact Statement, Yerba Buena Center Redevelopment Area (Report). Department of Housing and Urban Development. 1978. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  31. ^ "Nagging waterfront plan questions". San Francisco Examiner. December 19, 1979. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  32. ^ a b c "Designating the Rincon Annex Post Office as a Landmark Pursuant to Article 10 of the City Planning Code" (PDF). Planning Department, City and County of San Francisco. January 2, 1980. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  33. ^ "Proposal unveiled for Rincon Annex". San Francisco Examiner. June 1, 1983. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  34. ^ Nolte, Carl (September 28, 2014). "29 murals from New Deal era in Rincon center are being restored". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  35. ^ Shaw, Jennifer (January 6, 2015). "Pleasant Hill: Father-daughter art restorers bring back beauty to faded works". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  36. ^ Portué, Thomas (November 23, 2016). "The Rincon Center Historic Murals: A Conservator's Notes on the Spirit and Significance of Public Art". Conservators Converse [blog]. American Institute for Conservation. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  37. ^ "Murals, 1945–1949". SF Mural Arts. Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  38. ^ "About the Book Cover Art". University of Washington. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  39. ^ "San Francisco '34 Waterfront Strike, 1949". National Gallery of Art. Retrieved 20 February 2021.

Additional sources

  • "Anton Refregier's Murals in the Rincon Post Office Annex, San Francisco: A Marxist History of California", by Darren Paul Trebel, A Thesis presented to the Graduate Faculty of the University of Virginia, McIntire Department of Art History, University of Virginia, May 1992.
  • Kunkel, Gladys M. (1969). The mural paintings by Anton Refregier in the Rincon Annex of the San Francisco Post Office, San Francisco, California (M.A. thesis). Arizona State University.
  • Gelber, Steven M. (1979). "Working to Prosperity: California's New Deal Murals". California History. California Historical Society. 58 (2): 98–127. doi:10.2307/25157905.
  • Brechin, Gray (1996). "Politics and Modernism: The Trial of the Rincon Annex Murals". In Karlstrom, Paul J. (ed.). On the Edge of America: California Modernist Art, 1900–1950. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. pp. 68–89. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  • Cravotto, Julianne (2016–2017). "Roosevelt's Rincon Annex: A Story of a Post Office and Communist Murals" (PDF). Prized Writing. Vol. 28. University of California, Davis. pp. 47–55. Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  • Kamiya, Gary (June 14, 2019). "When a red-hunting Congress took on SF murals – and lost". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 17 February 2021.

External links

  • Media related to History of San Francisco murals by Anton Refregier at Wikimedia Commons
  • Brechin, Gray (1996). "Trial of the Rincon Annex Murals". Found SF. Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  • "Scandalous Murals of Rincon Center". SF City Guides. Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  • Historical images, via the San Francisco Public Library:
    • "Folder: S F Post Offices: Rincon Annex". San Francisco Public Library.
    • "Folder: S F Post Offices: Rincon Annex Murals". San Francisco Public Library. Includes preliminary designs from 1941.