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Walls Speak: The Narrative Art of Hildreth Meière

March 19, 2011–January 2, 2012

Hildreth Meière at the Pűhl & Wagner Factory, 1928; Berlin, Germany. Photograph courtesy of the Berlinische Galerie, Landesmuseum fűr Moderne Kunst, Fotografie und Architektur; Architecture Collection, Berlin, Germany.
Hildreth Meière at the Pűhl & Wagner Factory, 1928; Berlin, Germany. Photograph courtesy of the Berlinische Galerie, Landesmuseum fűr Moderne Kunst, Fotografie und Architektur; Architecture Collection, Berlin, Germany.

Hildreth Meière (1892–1961) found her muse in monumental buildings: their domes, ceilings, walls, windows, and floors were her canvas. A master of scale, she is best known for conceiving murals and mosaics of arresting beauty, combining glittering hues and flowing forms.

She confessed to falling in love “with mural painting and great beautiful walls” during a trip to Italy where she was overcome by the “glories of the Renaissance and all that preceded it.” Able to seek out the best teachers, she studied art in Florence as well as in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York—her hometown.

Her career was launched in 1923 when architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue hired Meière to decorate the dome of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C.  Before the commission was complete, she was working on two additional projects for him, most notably the Nebraska State Capitol, which ultimately encompassed eight distinctive works and collectively became her pièce de résistance.

Meière was a consummate collaborator, able to work with architects and clients, as well as the craftsmen who would execute her narrative creations. Her versatility was legendary, allowing her to expand her repertoire beyond painted wall murals to include glass and marble mosaics, marble floors, glazed terra-cotta tiles, metal relief sculpture, stained glass, leather doors, and wool tapestry.  She completed more than 100 commissions which ranged from corporate art to liturgical works, and includes the apse mosaic in the Chapel of the Resurrection at the National Cathedral.

Walls Speak is organized by the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts at St. Bonaventure University.