At the height of the New Deal, government contracts for “works of art” by Bohemian radicals to decorate public buldings were passed out like salted peanuts.
One prominent beneficiary of all this public largesse was the very left-wing Russian muralist Victor Arnautoff who got to paint an endless series of “socially conscious” works taking pokes at both American history and the contemporary American scene all over the San Francisco Bay area.
Arnautoff started off as a Tsarist officer and fought for the Whites before fleeing into exile in the United States, but once in the New World, he fell in with the Mexican communist painter Diego Rivera, became Rivera’s assistant, and converted to Communism himself. He was investigated by HUAC in the 1950s in connection with a caricature he drew of Richard Nixon. Arnautoff in retirement returned to Russia to live out the end of his life, happily, under Communism.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s WPA naturally chose Arnautoff to decorate San Francisco’s George Washington High School. Araunoff’s series of Washington murals came out precisely as everything the left-wing heart could desire. Bari Weiss describes it, in the New York Times:
[His] â€œLife of Washington,â€ does not show the clichÃ©d image of our first president kneeling in prayer at Valley Forge. Instead, the 13-panel, 1,600-square-foot mural, which was painted in 1936 in the just-built George Washington High School, depicts his slaves picking cotton in the fields of Mount Vernon and a group of colonizers walking past the corpse of a Native American.
There is a happy ending though. The ultra-leftwing SF School Board is so stupid that they have voted to spend $600,000 of the tax-payer’s dollars, not to cover up, but actually to destroy the communist series of paintings. Not because they are pretty crappy paintings abusing the Father of Our Country and treasonously siding with Stone Age Savages against the pioneers, but because the left-wing dimbulbs out there feel threatened and offended by these dreadful images which they interpret (erroneously) as glorifying Colonialism.
Here we have a case of Life not resembling Art, but rather approximating with perfection a satire based on extreme exaggeration.
You go, SF School Board! Trash that obnoxious
Communist Colonialist bunch of paintings!