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The Art of JAMA
May 5, 2015

Bay Bridge Anchorage Construction: George Booth Post

JAMA. 2015;313(17):1696-1697. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.11723

The only way to travel between the cities of San Francisco and Oakland in the early 1930s was to cross San Francisco Bay in a ferry or go the long way around by land. Urban visionaries saw the need for a faster, cheaper connection. As the US economy sank into the Great Depression, federal, state, and local governments were looking for opportunities to lift the public spirit and put people back to work. Many government-backed construction projects were undertaken at this time, including the long-anticipated San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge. Construction on the Bay Bridge began in 1933 and drew the attention of photographers and artists such as American watercolorist George Booth Post (1906-1997), who painted several views of the project including Bay Bridge Anchorage Construction in 1935. In this image, the artist’s point of view overlooks massive blocks of concrete built to anchor the terminus of a suspension bridge. The blocks frame a cable-spinning mechanism and support small human figures, providing a sense of scale. The action in this picture travels along parallel diagonals: at the base of the image a tidal stream washes in from right to left, and higher up a cable wheel travels out of the anchorage from left to right. The drab solidity of the concrete blocks contrasts with dabs of color in the gesturing workers and rotating wheel.