San FranciscoPosted: January 7, 2016
Right before Christmas had a chance to visit San Francisco — always great!
In San Francisco you can really feel like you’re halfway in the ocean.
Finding myself with an idle hour I went to go check out Diego Rivera’s mural Allegory of California over at the City Club in the former Pacific Stock Exchange building. The City Club was all done up for a Christmas party.
Pictures of the mural often leave out the amazing ceiling part:
Rivera painted this one in 1931, He modeled the lady on tennis champ Helen Wills Moody, who was at that time one of California’s most famous daughters:
She was a painter herself:
Wills was an artist by avocation. She received a degree in fine arts along with a Phi Beta Kappa key from the University of California, and painted throughout her life. She was delighted to be chosen as the model for Diego Rivera’s two-story mural “The Riches of California,” commissioned for $2,500 in 1930. Wills and the first of her two husbands, the financier Frederick Moody, invited Rivera and his wife, the painter Frieda Kahlo, to a celebratory tea after the mural’s unveiling at the former San Francisco Stock Exchange.
For Wills, who confessed to suffering the intangible pangs of “a restless heart,” tennis and painting were the best antidotes for melancholy. She maintained an artist’s studio at her residences in San Francisco and later in Carmel, once sold 40 paintings for $100 each and illustrated her own articles for The Saturday Evening Post.
Here’s one of her own drawings:
Perhaps Wills’s most infamous match, and certainly the one she extolled as the focal point of her playing career, was her only meeting with Lenglen, the queen of the continent, in a much ballyhooed showdown at Cannes in 1926. Lenglen was 26 and tactically superior; Wills was 20 and physically stronger. Lenglen won the raucous encounter, 6-3, 8-6.
There was a prizefight atmosphere, with tickets scalped at a then-shocking rate of $50 each, and an international gallery of spectators that included King Gustaf, a group of stowaway French schoolboys in a eucalyptus tree at one end of the court and Wills’s future husband, Frederick Moody, who introduced himself to her after the match. Wills was fond of noting that although she lost the match, she not only gained perspective on necessary changes to her game, which tended to be without nuance and relied on battering her opponents into submission with repetitious forehand ground strokes, but also gained a husband.
Maybe next time I’m up there I will get to see Making Of A Fresco: