Golden Gate Bridge

Ray Strong, Golden Gate Bridge, 1934, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1965.18.50
Copied Ray Strong, Golden Gate Bridge, 1934, oil on canvas, 44 1871 34 in. (112.0182.3 cm.), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1965.18.50

Artwork Details

Golden Gate Bridge
Not on view
44 1871 34 in. (112.0182.3 cm.)
Credit Line
Transfer from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service
Mediums Description
oil on canvas
  • Architecture — industry
  • Waterscape — boat
  • Landscape — mountain
  • Landscape — California — San Francisco
  • Waterscape — harbor — San Francisco Harbor
  • Architecture — bridge — Golden Gate Bridge
  • New Deal — Public Works of Art Project — California
Object Number

Artwork Description

This panoramic depiction of the Golden Gate Bridge under construction pays tribute to the ambitious feat of engineering required to span the mouth of San Francisco Bay. Artist Ray Strong painted looking north from the San Francisco side to the hills of Marin County, where the first bright orange tower rises. Tugboats and a freighter sailing across the deep blue waters typify the busy shipping that would routinely pass beneath the span. The bridge therefore had to have the highest deck ever built. The two massive concrete structures in the foreground are anchors for the cables supporting the deck. The vast structures on the San Francisco side dwarf the men working around the anchorages and pylons. Strong's painting, with its intense colors and active brushwork, conveys an infectious optimism. Hundreds of tourists who shared the artist's excitement came to gaze at this amazing project that continued despite the financial strains of the Great Depression and the disastrous storm that washed away a trestle on Halloween of 1933. It was only fitting that President Franklin Roosevelt chose this painting celebrating the triumph of American engineering to hang in the White House.

1934: A New Deal for Artists exhibition label

Gallery Label
The Golden Gate Bridge was one of the spectacular building projects of the 1930s that powered the nation's economic recovery. Like the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Empire State Building, the bridge came about through a mix of public and private interests. Powerful ferry operators fought against the project, but voters on both sides of the bay mortgaged their properties to underwrite the bonds that financed the bridge.

The construction of the bridge cost millions of dollars and many lives. Ray Strong's painting shows the piers on which the towers would stand rising above the water; they needed to withstand the fierce winds and currents of San Francisco Bay. Stringing the cables made for a high-wire ballet enthusiastically recorded in sober business journals, popular picture magazines, and newsreels alike. This painting appeared in a show of Works Progress Administration art at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, and President Roosevelt chose it to hang in the White House.

Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006

Related Books

1934: A New Deal for Artists
During the Great Depression, president Franklin Delano Roosevelt promised a “new deal for the American people,” initiating government programs to foster economic recovery. Roosevelt’s pledge to help “the forgotten man” also embraced America’s artists. The Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) enlisted artists to capture “the American Scene” in works of art that would embellish public buildings across the country. Although it lasted less than one year, from December 1933 to June 1934, the PWAP provided employment for thousands of artists, giving them an important role in the country’s recovery. Their legacy, captured in more than fifteen thousand artworks, helped “the American Scene” become America seen.