What is going on here? In the center of this jolly scene of people enjoying a day at the beach, a woman plays a guitar. Facing her is a man holding sheet music for her to read. Everyone else in the scene wears swimsuits or other light clothing, but he wears a dark business suit. Everyone else has a ruddy complexion, but his face is chalky white.
A closer look shows the man's eyes are closed. The guitarist isn't reading the music. She is looking at us from the corner of her eye, as is the harmonica-playing man behind her. No one else in the group looks out at us.
Who is the mystery man? Why has he joined these people on the beach? Why are the two musicians looking away from the sheet-music he's holding?
This picture is part of a set of frescoes in the Beach Chalet on Ocean Beach in San Francisco. The frescoes were painted by Lucien Adolphe Labaudt as part of a Works Progress Administration project in 1936.
If I remember correctly from the displays in this room, the faces of the people in this scene are taken from members of the artist's family. Also I think I recall the song on the sheet-music is "Red River Valley." Judging by the view of the Marin Headlands in the background, the scene must be on Baker Beach.
Please let me know if you have any ideas about what the artist meant by including this ghastly figure.