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BAACG Tour of the SF Maritime Museum

The District's San Francisco Maritime Museum building was built as a bathhouse in 1936 by the WPA under the new deal. A group of artists led by Hilaire Hiler was commissioned by the Federal Art Project administration to furnish murals, mosaics and sculptures in every part of the building from the ground floor up, inside and out. We were thrilled to have Richard Everette and Anne Rosenthal take us through the history of the artwork, artists and effort to conserve and restore the WPA murals.

The lecture was divided into two parts, the first was a delightful in-depth historical journey of the WPA, the unique collection of artists such as Charles Nunemaker and Sargent “Claude” Johnson and their contributions inside of the building and out. Richard took great care to bring these characters to life (and characters they were) using an impressive accumulation of original research by himself and a few colleagues.

For more information about the artists: Federal Art Project

The second half was a presentation on the condition and treatment of the WPA murals by Anne Rosenthal. She generously described each area of the murals showing before and during treatment slides. There was a variety of problems ranging from environmental exposure, abrasions, varnish erosion and soil. She faced notable and unique challenges with the Hiler mural because of the deterioration of the color tone. For more information on Hilaire Hiler’s unique theory of color, his book Color Harmony and Pigment has been published on the Web.

For more information on Hilaire Hiler’s unique take on color theory, his book Color Harmony and Pigment has been digitized and published on the Web.

Following the lecture we were given a guide tour with both lecturers pointing out specific areas of interest and some of their favorite details. The men enjoyed special dispensation to explore the mysteries of the ladies' room at the museum, which has a wonderful mural in its foyer. We also enjoyed an opportunity to review portions of the museum currently inaccessible to the general public.

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