Arnautoff post office mural - Richmond CA
An oil on canvas mural, “Richmond – Industrial City,” by Victor Arnautoff was installed in the Richmond Post Office in April 1941. It was funded by the Treasury Section of Fine Arts program. The mural disappeared for years and was only recently rediscovered and moved to the Richmond Museum of History. It has not been restored as yet and is unavailable for public viewing as of 2019.
In 1976, the interior of the Richmond post office was completely renovated and the mural was removed by art conservator Nathan Zakheim, the son of another renowned New Deal artist, Bernard Zakheim. But it was then put in storage in the basement of the building and forgotten for the next forty years (why is was not reinstalled is unknown).
Staff of the Richmond Museum of History heard of the mural and located it in a dark corner of the post office basement in 2014. It has since been relocated to the museum, which is still raising funds for restoration. For that story, see the museum webpage.
Victor Arnautoff is one of the best known of New Deal artists in the Bay Area, particularly his work at Coit Tower in San Francisco. Other New Deal murals by him can be found in the post offices of South San Francisco and Pacific Grove, CA and Linden, TX and at George Washington High School and the Presidio in San Francisco. His murals often focused on themes of labor, race, and class in the American experience.
“Born the the Ukraine of Russia, Victor Arnautoff became one of the most influential muralists in San Francisco in the 1930s and worked in the expressive, social protest style of Diego Rivera. He was also a painter, lithographer, sculptor, and respected teacher and the subjects of his art work ranged from portraits, still lifes, and landscapes early in his career to more socially conscious themes later.
He arrived in San Francisco in 1925, having travelled through China and Mexico. He enrolled in the California School of Fine Arts where he studied sculpture with Ralph Stackpole and painting with Edgar Walters. He returned to China for his wife and children, and returned to California via Mexico City where he studied with Rivera from 1929 to 1931.
The family then settled in San Francisco, and he taught at the California School of Fine Arts and from 1939 to 1963, was professor of art at Stanford University. Following the death of his wife, he returned to Russia where he continued his career as a painter and also as a mosaic muralist.”
for more on Victor Arnautoff, see the following:
"Victor Arnautoff: Passionate Paintings of the Bay Area Black Community in the Mid-20th Century" by William Mandel (http://www.frugalfun.com/discovered.html)
Lombardi, Suzanne (1984). Politics and Humanism in the Depression Era Frescoes of Victor Arnautoff. Berkeley, California
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