Monday, September 23, 2013

A Federal Art Project Mural in Boston

Into government sponsored art, murals, or 20th century painting? There’s a mural commissioned by the Federal Art Project during the Depression that’s still extant in Medford, MA. You just need to know where to look.

Medford’s City Hall was also built using federal funds during the Depression. The Hall was decorated with art from the Federal Art Project ranging from seascapes to landscapes, but there is also a mural up on the second floor in the solicitor’s office. You can schedule an appoint with the solicitor if you want to see it in person.

The mural is over 20 feet wide, so I had to do a stitched together panoramic shot on my phone.

The mural is over 20 feet wide, so I had to do a stitched together panoramic shot on my phone.

The mural’s theme of plague and massacre isn’t exactly uplifting, and the nude figures caused such a ruckus that the mural was almost covered (they were oscillating between permanently covering and temporarily covering it) or destroyed in the 1940s.

Here’s a kicker for you, it was painted by a woman. Elizabeth Tracy Montminy completed the mural in 1939. Entitled Terror of the Wilderness, it depicts colonists suffering from disease on the left and massacre on the right with a nightwatch in the center. Each represents the fears of early Massachusetts colonists. It was done in 7 steps (you can see the seams of each section if you get up close).

Montminy was a member of the Art Students League in NYC, and her involvement in the Federal Art Project led to commissions for several other murals and pieces. She was also a Guggenheim Award recipient. After the FAP, she settled in Missouri and taught college level painting.

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2 Responses to “A Federal Art Project Mural in Boston”

  1. 1

    Lesley Peterson — September 24, 2013 @ 10:19 pm

    Wow, a mural that is realistic rather than heroic:o I’ve often thought that pioneering must have been god-awful tough. Ms. Montminy seems to have gotten the picture:o

    • ehalvey replied: — September 25th, 2013 @ 1:53 pm

      It’s definitely not a happy, uplifting mural to look at.

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