Ray Strong Paints the Golden Gate Bridge
March 26, 2009
Looking at the painting and the photo together reminds me of the experience of watching a landscape artist work en plein air and glancing back and forth between the canvas and the subject. In between lies the vast world of interpretation.
In the photo, Ray Strong (1905–2006) paints the Golden Gate Bridge under construction in what is likely a preliminary sketch, as the painting in the American Art collection is much larger than the canvas on his easel. In our artwork, Strong displays optimistic colors and vivid brushstrokes. The water is composed of delicious blues and greens, while the sky is a fainter, less-drenched pigment. The first tower rises in the distance in its distinctive orange hue. The photograph shows the painter standing on the San Francisco side looking across toward Marin County. Both views tell a similar tale, but the painting seems to me the more vivid storyteller, while the photograph captures the important fact of the moment. My eye goes back and forth between the painting and the photo and gives me the sense that I'm there, looking over Strong's shoulder, watching quietly as he works.
For more information on Ray Strong and his take on the West Coast art scene in the 1930s, here's a transcript from his 1993 interview with the Archives of American Art.
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