Covarrubias Mural Now on View at the de Young
San Francisco—The Fauna and Flora of the Pacific, one of a six-part series of fanciful, larger-than-life-size maps created by noted Mexican artist Miguel Covarrubias for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay, has been restored and put on display in the Art of the Americas galleries at the de Young. The map will be on view through spring 2009. Two lectures by noted Covarrubias scholars will be presented as part of “Friday Nights at the de Young” on July 18 and August 1, 2008.
Miguel Covarrubias (1904–1957), internationally known painter, caricaturist, art historian, ethnologist and illustrator, was invited by the Golden Gate International Exposition (GGIE) to create a mural set entitled Pageant of the Pacific to be the centerpiece of Pacific House, “a center where the social, cultural and scientific interests of the countries in the Pacific Area could be shown to a large audience.” Covarrubias’ style was highly influential in America, especially in the 1920s and 1930s, and his artwork and caricatures of influential politicians and artists were featured on the covers of The New Yorker and Vanity Fair.
Covarrubias painted the six murals in San Francisco with his assistant Antonio Ruiz, and developed a new technique that used pigment in a nitrocellulose adhesive on Masonite. The mural set featured oversized, illustrated maps entitled: The Fauna and Flora of the Pacific, Peoples, Art and Culture, Economy, Native Dwellings, and Native Means of Transportation. The murals were immensely popular at the GGIE and were later exhibited at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Upon returning to San Francisco, five of the murals were installed at the World Trade Club in the Ferry Building where they hung until 2001 under the stewardship of the Port of San Francisco. The whereabouts of the sixth mural, Art and Culture, are unknown and has been the subject of great speculation throughout the world.
The Fauna and Flora of the Pacific on display at the de Young is the largest of the six murals and is comprised of 12 panels with dimensions measuring 179-¾ inches by 286-½ inches. The colorful map depicts the four Pacific Rim continents with examples of their flora and fauna suspended in a swirling blue Pacific Ocean populated with sea creatures. A color key is painted in the lower corner and identifies climatic regions ranging from the tundra to the “waterless desert.”
The conservation work required to preserve the murals took place in Mexico and was accomplished through collaboration between the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia and the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes. The mural is on loan courtesy of the City and County of San Francisco’s Treasure Island Development Authority. The installation was made possible by Wells Fargo. The Charles D. and Frances K. Field Fund supported conservation work and a subsequent display of the murals in Mexican museums in partnership with the Government of Mexico, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the Treasure Island Development Authority.
Two free lectures will be presented featuring noted Covarrubias scholars as part of the “Friday Nights at the de Young” series.
July 18, 2008
7:00 pm, Koret Auditorium
“The Wondrous Murals of Miguel Covarrubias”
Noted scholar Adriana Williams discusses the 1939 Golden Gate International Exhibition on Treasure Island and how Covarrubias was chosen to paint the murals for the Pageant of the Pacific series.
August 1, 2008
7:00 pm., Koret Auditorium
“Mexican Muralists’ Influence on the United States: Diego Rivera in San Francisco”
William Maynez, historian of the Pan American Unity fresco by Diego Rivera at City College, addresses the influence of the Mexican Mural movement on San Francisco.
Visiting the de Young
The de Young, designed by Herzog & de Meuron and located in Golden Gate Park, showcases American art from the 17th through the 21st centuries, international textile arts and costumes, and art from the Americas, the Pacific, and Africa.
Golden Gate Park
50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive
San Francisco, CA 94118
Tuesday–Thursday, Saturday and Sunday: 9:30 am–5:15 pm
Friday: 9:30 am–8:45 pm
Closed on Monday
$6 youths 13–17 and students with a college I.D.
Members and children 12 and under are free
$5 surcharge may apply to special exhibitions
The first Tuesday of every month is free
The de Young is accessible to wheelchair users. For information, contact the ADA Coordinator: 415.750.7645 (voice) or 415.750.3509 (TTY).