with 'murals' tag

in the “fiesta at a mission” mural by albert herter in the children’s department at the los angeles central library, there are plains indians among the crowd. when he was asked why this was, since they clearly weren’t native to the area and it seems a bit of a historical inaccuracy, herter replied that “they were visiting.”

(there is also a plains indian in the “americanization” mural in the rotunda, by cornwell — no story for why that is.)

the murals by herter were originally in the hope tunnel entrance to the library, but were moved to what was then the history reading room because of water seepage and poor lighting in the tunnel. as a result of the cleaning of the murals after the library fires in 1986, you can see clearly in at least one of the murals how they were expanded to fit the space in their new location.

profanation

central rotunda one of my favorite stories about the los angeles central library is how dean cornwell won the competition to do the murals in the rotunda. cornwell was so excited about the possibility of doing the murals, he entered the contest three times — once under his own name and twice under assumed names. when they selected the winners, the submission in his own name took first place, and the submissions under assumed names took second and third place.

doing the murals, which encompass 9000 square feet, took him five years.

here’s a brilliant contemporary review, even if i disagree with it, by thomas craven in american mercury magazine, december 1932: “the most conspicuous example of monumental profanation commissioned are the enlargements of coated paper magazine illustrations with which dean cornwell is swiftly and inexorably ruining the interior of one of the few tolerable buildings in los angeles.”