The work of American artist Hildreth Meière is the subject of special event, Sept. 23, 2014, in New York. This lecture open to the public, will be presented at the Abigail Adams Smith Auditorium by Catherine Coleman Brawer, art historian and curator. Meière (1892-1961), a native New Yorker, had a prolific career that spanned across the nation during the early 20th century. She is known for her murals in the Art Deco style and was a contemporary of the prominent American artist, Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986). The special event honors the achievements of the artist, profiles the woman in a traditionally male-dominated field, and examines the artistry of the murals by Hildreth Meière.
Her name might not be a household word, but Meière’s work is in well-known public buildings throughout the U.S. She studied in Florence, Italy, for a year following her high school graduation. During her studies, she made the decision that she “just had to be a mural painter.” Her education continued in the U.S. at leading art schools in New York, San Francisco, and Chicago. Her first professional work as an artist was making sketches of famous actors and dancers after she and her family moved to California. That led to her returning to Manhattan to accept an offer from the Metropolitan Opera to design costumes.
When the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, Meière trained as a mapmaker and joined the U.S. Navy in 1918. Her work as an architectural draftsman earned her an honorable discharge the following year. That training proved beneficial as she pursued mural design and architectural drawing after the war.
Meière’s first murals were for private homes. That soon changed after she was introduced to one of the leading American architects of the day, Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue of New York. He was the architect for the new building of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. and commissioned Meière to do a mosaic decorating the interior of the dome. He was also the architect for the Nebraska State Capitol in Lincoln and commissioned her to be the principal designer for decorative art that would represent the state’s history. The Architectural League of New York awarded her a Gold Medal in 1928 for her work on the Nebraska capitol. This was the first of many awards and events honoring the artist and artistry of murals by Hildreth Meière.
Within her more than 30-year career, she had accepted over 100 commissions to create murals for public buildings. Her art included a huge scope ranging from some of the interior murals in Rockefeller Center to Kansas City’s Union Station and houses of worship including the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., Temple Emanu-el in New York, and the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. Her work is in major buildings in at least 15 states from coast to coast. The extent of her art was not limited to interior walls. The three large medallions above the marquee on the south side of Radio City Music Hall were designed by her and each one is named after an area of the performing arts: Song, Dance, and Drama.
In addition to awards, she also served in other capacities. She was the first woman member of the New York City Art Commission and held various offices with such notable organizations as the National Society of Mural Painters, the Architectural League of New York, and the Liturgical Arts Society. In 1953, Manhattanville College awarded her an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters and the Church Architectural Guild of America made her an honorary member. These accolades are only a few of the full list of tributes.
The Sept. 23rd public event honoring the artist and artistry of the muralist, Hildreth Meière, takes place in the auditorium that is in the headquarters of the Colonial Dames of America (CDA). This, in itself, is a tribute to the artist because she was a member of this historic-based women’s organization. CDA members are direct descendants of high ranking government or military leaders of the original Thirteen Colonies. The organization owns and operates several historic house museums throughout the U.S. The reception following the lecture will be held in the garden of the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum, a day hotel in Manhattan that operated in the early 19th century on the banks of the East River. For more information about the event or the artist and her murals, the links are provided below.
By Cynthia Collins
Lecture about Hildreth Meière – Information
Top photo: Floor of Nebraska State Capitol Rotunda by Hildreth Meière