Skip to Content ☰ Open Filter >>

Cover thumbnail for Coit Tower Murals Coit Tower Murals

• The building of Coit Tower was funded through a bequest to the city of San Francisco by Elizabeth “Lilly” Coit, a wealthy eccentric who was famous for her support of the city’s fire department and infamous for her fondness for dressing in men’s clothing, attending poker games and cock fights, and staging boxing matches in her suite at the Palace Hotel. After her death in 1929, the city created two memorials in her honor: a bronze statue by Haig Patigian depicting three firefighters located in Washington Square Park (in the SFAC Civic Art Collection), and Coit Tower.

• Coit Tower was dedicated October 8th, 1933.

• Coit Tower’s murals were painted the following year in 1934.

• The murals were created under the Public Works Art Project and were the first project of the WPA.

• The Coit Tower project was inspired by the government-sponsored Mexican Mural Project of the 1920s, and intentionally reflects the style of the Diego Rivera.

• The Coit Tower project was completed under the direction of both Dr. Walter Heil, Regional Director for the Public Works Art Project, and the San Francisco Arts Commission, whose commissioners were responsible for artist selection, endorsement of all design proposals, and approval of the completed murals.
• Coit Tower contains 27 murals by 26 artists. Most of the murals were painted in the fresco buono tradition, a highly stable and colorfast medium. The murals cover approx. 3,691 square feet of wall space and make up the largest grouping of frescos in the United States.

• As reflected in Arts Commission minutes from 1934, the commissioners were insistent upon the mural project’s success as a unified whole achieved through the artists’ conformity to a consistent earth-toned palette, scale and height.

• The murals are painted in a social-realist style and reflect themes of agriculture, labor and industry, social protest and social idealism. These themes were heavily influenced by the politics at the time and were charged by the 1934 West Coast waterfront strike, much of which was taking place along the docks at the foot of Telegraph Hill (where Coit Tower sits).

• In the midst of work on the murals, the Coit Tower artists staged a protest in the tower against the destruction of Diego Rivera’s Rockefeller Center mural in New York, an action reflected in the newspaper headlines of Bernard Zakheim’s Library panel at the southeast corner of the building. This particular mural also references the SF Arts Commission’s effort to place a sculpture of Saint Francis by local artist Beniamino Bufano (depicted in the mural reading the headline).

• Upon final inspection of the completed murals by SFAC commissioners, the image of a hammer and sickle became the subject of debate between the commissioners and the artists. In a final compromise, the image was over-painted in exchange for the Commission’s acceptance of scattered references throughout the murals to pro-labor and Socialist publications.

• The murals were accessioned into the Arts Commission’s Civic Art Collection in 1934.


Showing 1 to 12 of 27 Records

Your current search criteria is: Portfolio is "Coit Tower Murals".