On a recent trip to the Bay Area, California, I stopped by Coit Tower in San Francisco. The 210-foot Coit Tower offers panoramic views of the San Francisco skyline from its observation deck. On the inside of the tower on the first floor, several murals depicting life in California during the Great Depression are on display. They were painted in 1934 by artists employed by the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), a predecessor of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). One mural in particular caught my eye: “Banking and Law,” created by George Albert Harris.
George Harris was one of the youngest artists to work on the frescos in Coit Tower. At the time, he was a student at the California School of Fine Arts. He subsequently obtained a Ph.D. from Stanford University. Later on, he taught art at Stanford University and various other colleges. In the 1970s, he moved to England and later retired in France, where he died in 1991.
According to the plaque in front of his mural, “Banking and Law is a serious look at both professions, yet his mural contains subtle humor and biting satire in the titles of the book in the law library. Some are legitimate titles, while others are named, for example, Law of Justice; Law of Averages; Laws of Fresco Painting, 1934.” The left side of the mural shows lawyers studying books, whereas the right side depicts guards with guns protecting bags of money. The top of the mural shows the stock market and clerks entering the latest numbers. The wall chart shows stock averages plummeting.
If you ever happen to be in the Bay Area, I recommend visiting Coit Tower. While you wait to go up to the observation deck, you can learn about life in the U.S. during the Great Depression by studying the murals, and later get rewarded with a fantastic view of the city.
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