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Dean Cornwell was born in 1892. After studying under Frank Brangwyn, Cornwell established himself as one of America's leading illustrators. He worked for various magazines including Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping.
Cornwell taught at the Arts Students League in New York where he had a profound influence on such artists as Harry Beckhoff, Rico Tomaso and Frank Reilly.
Cornwell's work often appeared in Cosmopolitan. He also illustrated several books including The City of the Great King, The Man of Galilee, Never the Twain Shall Meet, The Enchanted Hill and the Pride of Palomar. Cornwell was also President of the Society of Illustrators (1922-26).
In the 1930s and 40s Cornwell concentrated on producing advertising posters and worked for several large companies including Seagrams Whiskey, General Motors and Coco Cola.
Cornwwll was elected the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 1959.
Dean Cornwell died in 1960.
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During the Golden Age of Illustration, many illustrators created outstanding work, but one of my favorites is Dean Cornwell.
He was born March 5, 1892 in Louisville, Kentucky. Dean studied at the Art Institute in Chicago and went on to New York City to study with the Art Students League of New York. Beginning to make a name for himself he created Illustrations for prominent magazines such as Harpers Bazaar and Cosmopolitan. He even did work for Ernest Hemingway and other authors.
Dean Cornwell working on one of four sections of the mural for the Los Angeles Public Library – 1933
Not only an Illustrator for paper, he was a successful muralist. A well-known mural he completed was for the Los Angeles Public Library. The mural included the four parts of California’s history… Era of Discovery, the Missions, Americanization, and the Founding of the City of Los Angeles. He had never painted murals prior and successfully completed the large four panels that still stand today in the rotunda.
Couple Sitting at Opposite Ends of Bench in Moonlight – 1923
Cornwell was the President of the famous Society of Illustrators for four years. He was later inducted into their Hall of Fame only a year before his death.
Cosmopolitan Story Illustration – 1930
Looking at his work, it does have many similarities style-wise to others of the era (Leyendecker and Tepper). The almost gestural/characterized figures create an atmosphere of movement. Another major aspect of his paintings is the color palette. A large amount of his work is done in monotone or with accents, along with pale pigments. I personally enjoy the paintings of his done like the one above.
If you look at this unknown sketch above, you will see the part of the process to complete a painting. He does do preliminary drawings of the figures and composition and then seems to move towards a study like this. Using pencil work that is gestural and then going on top loosely with just the colors creates his notable style. It is not as if he sits there and blends and smooths his paint out, it looks like Dean throws it on the canvas not worrying too much about it.
Another part of his work that is like many other of the era was the almost “incomplete” nature of his illustrations. He focuses on major figures and landmarks in his works, but leaves many parts of the canvas/paper untouched or covered in white paint. I particularly enjoy this for some reason and I cannot put words to it.
Dean Cornwell was an impeccable illustrator and his work clearly shows that. He earned his spot near the top illustrators of all time and I strive to be influenced by both his work ethic and style.
The Decade 1920-1930
The end of the First World War brought prosperity as well as great social change, and America became the economic and political powerhouse of the world. Soldiers returned to a confident country, eager for jobs, family, and friends. Women had been granted the right to vote. College education was more common and could lead women to professional careers. America began to set the trends and tastes for world-wide popular culture and faced the first large "generation gap." The social freedoms that were now possible for America's young people separated them entirely from their Victorian-era parents. They dressed differently, had new forms of music and dancing, and exhibited a libertarian morality. The publishing, advertising, and entertainment industries catered to this age group and made twenty-somethings and their current styles the focus of the culture.
John Held, Jr., Life magazine cover, 1926
Russell Patterson, newspaper panel page, 1929
American magazine illustrators had been, for the most part, portraying literal reality, but in this decade a shift began: stylized illustration was becoming a dominant trend. Earlier, Maxfield Parrish, J.C. Leyendecker, and Rose O'Neill had developed stylized characterizations, but in the 1920s John Held Jr., like no other artist before him, used an abstract cartooning and comic illustration approach to capture the essence of a whole young generation. His thin, angular girls with long legs, short skirts, and pouty lips were cute and provocative&mdashand the symbols of social revolution. Russell Patterson portrayed upper-class characters from the same generation in drawings and comic panel pages, and Henry Patrick Raleigh&rsquos narrative scenes of drama and romance were populated by tall, elegant figures that were the precursors of modern fashion illustration.
Henry Raleigh, magazine illustration
Narrative realism in the Brandywine tradition continued with the paintings of Dean Cornwell, a student of one of Howard Pyle&rsquos pupils, Harvey Dunn. Cornwell was one of the great masters of illustration, considered even by his contemporaries as without peer. His technique ranged from spontaneous brushwork to high realism, and he created pictures for all the major magazines, worked on advertising campaigns, and produced a strong body of mural work.
Dean Cornwell, magazine illustration, 1923
Advertising agencies began to take on a powerful role in setting cultural trends. Ad agency art directors could commission illustration that rivaled publication work in quality and technique, while paying much higher fees to artists. Ads could portray everything from realistic situations to comedy, and illustrators used to narrative were given the chance to make personal interpretations of advertising concepts (McClelland Barclay).
McClelland Barclay, advertising illustration, 1929
In general, illustration had become a highly paid field for the very top artists, and their lifestyles reflected that with grand estates, chauffeured limousines, and live-in chefs. Illustrators socialized with literary and entertainment industry stars, and female illustrators&mdashlike actresses in the movie business&mdashbegan to achieve personal successes that rivaled men's. After many commissions for humor publications like Puck and Life and early success at the turn of the century and 1910s, Rose O&rsquoNeill became a millionaire in the late 1920s and 1930s through the merchandising of her Kewpie characters and dolls. Neysa McMein, a women&rsquos rights activist and friend of writers and playwrights, was one of the earliest and most successful female advertising illustrators. She was best known for her many McCall&rsquos magazine covers that featured women in society.
Rose O'Neill, self-portrait with Kewpies
Neysa McMein, advertising illustration
Norman Rockwell's long career was solidly underway in the 1920s with The Saturday Evening Post covers that portrayed American character types in captured moments of ordinary life. Rockwell achieved a connection to his viewers because his characterizations reminded them of things they'd seen or felt or done themselves. They displayed ordinary human qualities, were rarely handsome or beautiful, and were exaggerated just enough to draw attention to their expressions, body language, and interactions with each other so that the scene and characters could be quickly understood. Rockwell produced art for people to relate to.
Norman Rockwell, cover illustration, The Saturday Evening Post, 1921
A History Forged in Steel
Eugene Cornwell founded the Cornwell Quality Tools Company in Northeast Ohio in the early 1900s. Eugene was a highly skilled blacksmith determined to produce "the best tools." By experimenting with various steels and heat treating methods, he not only accomplished his dream, but also achieved widespread reputation as a top-notch toolmaker.
Eugene Cornwell began forging more than metal when he set out to produce rugged, longer-lasting tools. From his small blacksmith shop in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, he forged a company. A company that cares about doing the best it can because it's employee owned. A company that is committed to the pride that accompanies the sale of quality materials. A company that recognizes the importance of family because the company itself is family owned. And over the years that hasn't changed. With the use of high-grade alloy steel, combined with modern heat-treating methods, it is no wonder Cornwell has continued to produce the finest tools in the world, that have truly been The Choice of Professionals® since 1919.
2009 marked Cornwell's 90th Anniversary as a corporation. Eugene initiated a notion that his company should remain in the family, and Cornwell has been family owned for its entire history. It fostered this notion by being the oldest in the business to provide direct sales through independent tool dealers.
Dean Cornwell - History
HOUR AFTER HOUR, CAREW LAY MOTIONLESS (DESERT HEALER)
1922, oil on canvas
36" x 28", signed and dated lower right
The Desert Healer, by E.M. Hull, Cosmopolitan, 1922 STILL LIFE IWTH URN
1942, oil on canvas
50" x 75", signed lower left NEVER THE TWAIN SHALL MEET
1923, oil on canvas
28" x 45 1/2", signed lower right
"Never the Twain Shall Meet," by Peter B. Kyne, 1923, dustjacket
Dean Cornwell 1892–1960
Dean Cornwell was a brilliant left-handed painter and muralist who dominated the illustration field for many years.
Dean Cornwell began his professional art career at age 18 as a cartoonist for the Louisville Herald. A year later, he enrolled at the Chicago Art Institute and went to work in the art department of the Chicago Tribune. At the Chicago Art Institute, he met and studied under prominent art educator Harvey Dunn. In 1915 Dean Cornwell followed Dunn to New York and joined him in his studio-classroom. After studying with Dunn Cornwell quickly became a success, although he eventually developed his own bold, light-drenched style.
He married artist Mildred Montrose Kirkham in Chicago in 1918, but his constant extramarital affairs caused the couple to separate after just a few years of marriage. They had two children but never divorced.
Dean Cornwell always had a strong work ethic and often worked seventeen-hour days, seven days a week. He produced over 1,000 illustrations for nearly every major publication in the country including Cosmopolitan, Harper's Bazaar, Redbook, and Good Housekeeping magazines.
In 1926 he signed a long-term contract with Cosmopolitan for the unheard-of annual salary at the time of $100,000, about $1,350,000 today.
He illustrated the work of authors including Pearl S. Buck, Lloyd Douglas, Edna Ferber, Ernest Hemingway, W. Somerset Maugham, and Owen Wister. He did advertising illustrations for hundreds of companies including GM, Eastern Airlines, Pennsylvania Railroad, Paul Jones Whiskey, Aunt Jemima, Seagram’s Gin, Woodbury Soap, Palmolive, Coca-Cola, Goodyear, New York Life and Squibb. During the first World War he produced posters promoting the war effort.
He was a major presence in American illustration during the first half of the 20 th century. Due to his popularity he was nicknamed the “Dean of Illustrators.”
In 1927 he decided to devote the rest of his life to mural painting and traveled to England to study mural painting for three years under famous muralist and autodidact Frank Brangwyn. Brangwyn selected Cornwell to assist him in a series of murals, including one at the House of Lords. Cromwell claimed that he rarely made much money from his murals and he continued his illustration work whenever he needed money.
Dean Cornwell’s murals include his well-known work at the Los Angeles Public Library that was four-forty-feet-wide by forty-foot-high, took five years to complete and told the history of California. Also in California is his mural at the Lincoln Memorial Shrine in Redlands. Cornwell painted murals in New York City at the Eastern Airlines Building (now 10 Rockefeller Plaza), the Raleigh Room at the Hotel Warwick, and the General Motors mural at the 1939 World's Fair. He also painted murals at the New England Telephone (now Verizon) headquarters building in Boston, the Davidson County Courthouse and Sevier State Office Building in Tennessee, and the Centre William Rappard in Geneva, Switzerland. During the depression he painted Federal Art Project murals in post offices in Chapel Hill and Morganton, North Carolina.
Dean Cornwell taught and lectured at the Art Students League in New York City and served as president of the Society of Illustrators from 1922 to 1926. He received gold medals for mural painting from the Architectural League of New York, as well as gold medals from the Allied Artists of America and the Society of Illustrators. Cornwell's 1928 Washing the Savior's Feet, originally painted for Good Housekeeping, was accepted for display by Britain's prestigious Royal Academy, one of the few American artists to receive this honor. In 1934 he was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Associate Academician and became a full Academician in 1940. He served as President of the National Society of Mural Painters from 1953 to 1957. In 1959 he was inducted into the Society of Illustrator's Hall of Fame.
Dean Cornwell - History
Dean Cornwell, often referred to with the appellation “The Dean of Illustrators” tacked on, was a second generation inheritor of the Brandywine tradition of illustration, having studied with Harvey Dunn, a student of Howard Pyle and an eminent teacher in his own right.
Cornwell carried the Brandywine traditions of bold figures, bright colors and dynamic compositions forward, but blended them with influences he gathered from Frank Brangwyn, with whom he also studied, to create his uniquely powerful style.
Brangwyn, among his many talents, was a noted muralist, and Cornwell adopted the muralist technique of surrounding figures with strong outlines to great effect, both in his own murals and in his illustration work, giving it a forceful graphic framework within which he plied the lessons of the Brandywine school that he had acquired from Dunn. Cornwell said that he considered himself a “grand-student” of Pyle, and would often quote Pyle’s aphorisms about painting that he had picked up from Dunn.
Cornwell had a successful career as an illustrator but had a passion to become a muralist. At one point took three years off and traveled to England to study mural painting with Brangwyn prior to fulfilling a commission to create his now famous murals for the Los Angeles Public Library. Cornwell went on to create notable murals across the country.
Leif Peng has a good article about Cornwell’s murals for the Warwick Hotel, as well a more general article on Cornwell on his always terrific Today’s Inspiration blog and has also generously posted a terrific Flickr set of Cornwell’s work that contains the highest resolution Cornwell images I’ve seen on the web..
The Warwick murals were restored in 2004 and have become the centerpiece for a new restaurant at the Warwick called Murals on 54. The restaurant’s site has a nice image gallery.
The murals themselves became the center of a dispute between Cornwell and William Randolph Hearst, who had commissioned the images of Sir Walter Raleigh and Queen Elizabeth I for the Raleigh Room in his new apartment hotel. The apparently bitter disagreement was over compensation for the work.
I’ll quote, as Peng has, from the history on the Murals restaurant site: Enraged and seeking revenge, Cornwell painted images, at the time considered obscene, onto the murals. Due to the controversy, one mural was covered for more than 40 years. The concealed mural included a man urinating on the queen and another man urinating on Sir Walter Raleigh. Another pictured an Indian with bare buttocks. The dispute was eventually settled and Cornwell painted out one of the obscenities but the others remained. (The page with the full story has been moved since Peng’s post and is now located here.) Hmmm… never cross a muralist while he still has access to your wall.
As an illustrator, Cornwell stands with the best of the best, and created memorable magazine, book and advertising illustrations. He was also notable as a cartoonist, with work appearing in Judge early in the 20th Century. His patriotic posters were a common sight during World War II. The American Art Archives site has an article with a number of his advertising illustrations and there is a nice post on ConceptArt.org that shows many images from various sources around the web, including many from Peng’s Flickr set. (Scroll down the long page for more images.)
Cornwell’s images can seem very controlled at times, but they resonate with a vibrant strength and sculptural dimensionality that is unique. Particularly fascinating are his drawings, which utilize a dramatic bold outline style that would be of particular interest to students of comic book art and related illustration.
The image above, Serving the Nation, isn’t Cornwell at his strongest, but seemed appropriate for Labor Day. It’s from the Pennsylvania Railroad’s 1943 Calendar. The 1944 calendar had a similar piece, Forward, in which the domestic duties of the railroad are paired with images of the the war effort. I had the pleasure of stumbling on what I assume is a preliminary study for the bottom half of that image at the Newman Galleries here in Philadelphia. I’ve also see a Cornwell study in the collection of a friend, and his work is remarkably painterly close up.
Dean Cornwell: Dean of Illustrators, the most comprehensive book on the artist, was reprinted in 2000, but is currently out of print and expensive on the used book market, particularly considering the percentage of works that are not reproduced in color. Some alert publisher out there needs to pick up on the fact that we need some new books on illustration greats like Cornwell and Leyendecker.
Two Murals, Two Histories : Sixty years ago, David Alfaro Siqueiros created a scathing image of California colonization, while Dean Cornwell took a more Establishment view one can be seen now, the other will be restored to view within a year
This is a story of two murals. Although it unfolds in Los Angeles, self-styled capital of modern mural painting in the United States, it is a pivotal story that has remained mostly hidden for more than half a century.
One part of the tale was dramatically revealed last October, when the newly refurbished Central Library opened its doors to the public after more than six years of renovation and expansion, including the cleaning of a major mural cycle in the main rotunda. The second, even more important chapter should be unveiled within the next year or so, when art conservators for the Getty Conservation Institute complete some demanding labors on Olvera Street.
The two murals couldn’t be more different from one another, even though they date from the same moment and were painted a scant 10 blocks apart. Indeed, one could be described as the artful declaration of an official fantasy, the second as the dramatic assertion of an unofficial reality. Together, they speak to one another across space and time, giving shape and depth to history in a way that only art can.
Near the plaza of El Pueblo, where the village of Los Angeles had been established late in the 18th Century, a painter was hard at work in the late summer and early fall of 1932. On a south-facing exterior wall on the second floor of Italian Hall, once a thriving community benevolent association, the great Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros (1898-1974) had been commissioned by F. K. Ferencz, director of the Plaza Art Gallery, to paint a mural that would be called “America Tropical.”
Siqueiros’ vision of tropical America was painted in segments across an 18-by-80-foot brick wall facing a rooftop beer garden that overlooked Olvera Street. Working with a changing team of assistants for 47 days between August and October, he sketched out a luxurious jungle scene filled with huge, tangled vegetation, both vaguely erotic and threatening.
In the center of the shallow, flattened space loomed a richly decorated pyramid, its twin entrances cleverly merged with a pair of actual shuttered windows in the building’s brick wall. Totemic sculptures flanked the temple, while a tall, carved stone arose in the jungle at the left.
Compositionally balancing the monolith, a small building was painted around a door at the right end of the wall. Again the mural’s illusion merged with the building’s physical design.
Neither the decorated pyramid nor any of the carved sculptures can be stylistically pinpointed to one ancient civilization or another. A sculpture by the temple’s base, for example, loosely recalls an 800-year-old Chacmool figure from the Yucatan, but not with specificity. Siqueiros’ designs aren’t Mayan, Toltec, Aztec or Olmec.
Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say his style is all of those and more. His fresco fuses a variety of pre-Columbian styles.
Still, Siqueiros’ aesthetic is even more complex. The artist had worked with Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco in the government-sponsored mural campaign in Mexico City, between 1922 and 1924. A veteran of his country’s civil wars, he had also traveled to study art in France, Italy and Spain. In Barcelona in 1921, he had issued a formal Manifesto to the Artists of America.
With youthful exuberance, Siqueiros had exclaimed, “Let us live our marvelous, dynamic age!” Recalling the fiery rhetoric of the Italian Futurist painters, he sought to inject his art with a vigor commensurate to the technological and political upheavals that marked the tumultuous new century.
While painting in Mexico City, Siqueiros was also drawn into trade-union organizing. First he joined the Union of Technical Workers, Painters and Sculptors. Later, in Jalisco, he became president of the National Federation of Mineworkers. Finally he served as secretary of Mexico’s Communist Party. He came to Los Angeles in 1932, to teach at the old Chouinard School of Art, after a year spent in prison for participating in a banned May Day celebration in Mexico City.
In addition to its sources in ancient Mexico, “America Tropical” was inflected with the grave simplicity and muted color of the early Renaissance murals of Masaccio, which the artist had so greatly admired in Italy, as well as with a flattened, distilled form and space that is thoroughly modern. Overall, this complicated merger complied with the pointed directive Siqueiros had set out a decade before, in his flamboyant manifesto.
By turning to ancient sources for his hybrid style, and by experimenting with such untried modern techniques as the use of an airbrush, he sought a “synthetic energy” that would manage to avoid “those lamentable archeological reconstructions (Indianism, Primitivism, Americanism) which are so in vogue here today but which are only short-lived fashions.” It’s as if the Olvera Street mural declared that Siqueiros’ artistic identity must be taken as the sum of his own social, cultural and personal histories.
When the mural was nearly complete, Siqueiros dismissed his assistants and set to work on a final, dramatic flourish. Directly in front of the ancient temple, smack in the visual center of the mural, he painted an Indian lashed with ropes to a wooden cross. Above the crucified figure an American eagle spreads its wings, its razor-sharp talons clutching the cross.
Over at the right, he added two figures crouching atop the building he had painted around the door in the wall. A peasant revolutionary clutches a rifle across his chest, while a second figure garbed in generic Indian dress points his rifle directly at the eagle.
Not surprisingly, when Siqueiros’ mural was finished and publicly unveiled, pandemonium ensued. A crucified Indian peon and revolutionary soldiers attacking the symbol of the United States were not seen by the city’s political leadership as flattering images. Nearly a third of the mural, the portion visible from Olvera Street below, was quickly covered over with white paint. A few months later, Siqueiros was deported.
Meanwhile, several blocks south, at the corner of Fifth and Grand, another painter was putting the finishing touches on an expansive mural cycle. Painted between 1927 and 1932 in the magnificent rotunda of the city’s new Central Library by the highly regarded American illustrator Dean Cornwell (1892-1960), they depict the colonization of California by Spanish conquistadors, missionaries and their descendants.
Employing a pastel palette of pinks, yellows, greens and blues, which are fashionably reminiscent of those used by the celebrated Philadelphia illustrator, Maxfield Parrish, Cornwell told a peaceful fairy tale of California’s founding by Christian Spanish settlers.
Through sweetly crystalline forms, the paintings in the rotunda’s four monumental lunettes create a luxurious pageant. Powerful and beneficent representatives of the King of Spain and the Catholic Church bring the gifts of civilization, order and progress to a primitive, subservient yet noble population of indigenous people.
One lunette shows the arrival of Spanish conquistadors in great ships. Another depicts the Catholic Church’s investiture in the New World a third portrays its construction of the California missions. The last shows the coming of the railroad and the arrival of transcontinental commerce, spanning the United States “from sea to shining sea.”
Eight smaller panels flank the four lunettes. They portray a variety of other episodes in California history, large and small, including depictions of weaving and pottery making, of the gold rush, of harnessing scarce water, of harvesting the bounty of the fields.
Throughout Cornwell’s murals, peace and prosperity flourish under the guiding authority of church, state and commerce. Everywhere, the Europeans and their descendants are portrayed as stoical leaders, while the “noble savages” work.
Needless to say, Cornwell’s vision was warmly embraced by the civic Establishment, which had commissioned it. In fact, its very spirit was inescapably linked to the milieu in which Siqueiros’ combative mural had taken shape.
The Mexican painter’s ode to the seductive pleasures of tropical America had been expected to complement a newly revitalized area. El Pueblo, which had long since fallen into decay and disarray, had been the focus of a vigorous municipal campaign to transform the city’s historic but neglected birthplace into a charming tourist attraction.
Christine Sterling, a civic leader who led the effort along Olvera Street, envisioned the short, narrow avenue as a colorful Mexican marketplace filled with artisans’ shops, strolling mariachis and eateries. “Olvera Street holds for me all the charm and beauty which I dreamed for it,” she had happily declared when the marketplace opened to the public in 1930, “because out of the hearts of the Mexican people is spun the gold of romance and contentment. No sweeter, finer people live on this Earth than the men and women of Mexico.”
As a tourist venue imagined by an Anglo member of the local oligarchy, the lighthearted fantasy on newly refurbished Olvera Street bore about as much likeness to the actual historic pueblo or to an authentic Mexican marketplace as Cornwell’s murals did to the brutal facts of California’s conquest and settlement. Olvera Street was, in its ersatz way, a sort of 1930s prelude to today’s eclectic Universal Studios CityWalk, with its glittery imitation of an actual urban street.
As L.A. sagged under the darkening cloud of the Great Depression in the early 1930s, both the library murals and the touristy marketplace were suffused with Southern California optimism. They told official histories, one in paint and one in real estate, spruced up and prettified for ease of civic consumption.
Siqueiros, however, wasn’t swallowing any of it. Conflicts over immigration were raging then as they are today, likewise exacerbated by pitiless economic stresses of the period.
That the painter might hold a rather different view of the region and its history was certainly to be expected. It probably goes without saying that, offered a wall to paint above the quaintly idealized marketplace on Olvera Street, he might vigorously embrace the chance to make a corrective work of art declaring an independent vision.
Siqueiros unveiled his mural in October, Cornwell finished his five-year project in November. (The signature panel on Cornwell’s mural is accompanied by the date 1933 , which might refer to its dedication.) Given the timing, did Siqueiros mean “America Tropical” to be a direct reply to Cornwell’s “official history” of Southern California?
There is no record as to whether the Mexican artist had seen the nearby library murals, with their gauzy motifs of sunshiny bliss, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Siqueiros had. After all, a prominent visiting muralist might be expected to stop in to see a colleague’s nearly finished work-in-progress in a public building a few blocks away, especially as the library murals were surely the most important civic commission of the day.
The differences between Siqueiros’ dramatic mural and Cornwell’s elaborate painted pageant are pretty blunt. However, among the more subtly revealing points of comparison is the prominent religious imagery both employ.
Cornwell repeatedly evokes the Christian symbol of the Madonna and Child, which underscores an identification between the golden land of California and an untrammeled New Eden. By contrast, Siqueiros’ bold crucifixion is of a wholly different order.
At the Central Library, the lunette describing the investiture of the Catholic Church shows, just to the left of center, a radiant young Indian woman holding her baby at her side. These sweetly painted surrogates for the Virgin and Child are surrounded by what appears to be a heavenly aureole. (In fact, the halo is a large pottery vase standing behind them.)
This secular allusion to the Mother of God is placed at the feet of a lavishly robed Catholic bishop. On the cleric’s richly decorated garment, directly in line with the woman’s head, is an embroidered image of an enthroned Madonna and Child. California is subtly identified with miraculous birth.
Echoes of this “New World Madonna” appear elsewhere in Cornwell’s mural cycle, but nowhere is the image more telling than in the climactic railroad lunette. There, in the center of the picture atop a crowded pyramid of people, another woman holds her baby at her side this time, the encompassing halo is the arching white cover to a Conestoga wagon in which they ride.
The culmination of this ceremonial California narrative thus represents a notable transformation. For its personification of sacred birth has quietly shifted, from an indigenous woman and her child to American pioneers arriving from the East.
Over at Olvera Street, Siqueiros’ crucified peasant is a Christian symbol that does not tell of miraculous birth. Instead, rebirth is on Siqueiros’ mind.
A crucifixion is a tragic icon whose substance is mortal suffering and death. Here, an exemplar of the indigenous population has been lashed to the conqueror’s Christian cross, erected before a sacred ancient temple. The European conquest is likened to Christ’s crucifixion, as the brutal death of one civilization makes way for the new life of another.
Siqueiros’ crucifixion, however, is also aligned with two revolutionary figures--one modern, one ancestral--who take aim at the victor’s modern symbol. “America Tropical” is a poetic evocation of a continuing struggle for social transformation, and for the promise of a resurrection of the Americas.
In her comprehensive 1993 survey book, “Street Gallery: A Guide to 1,000 Los Angeles Murals,” Robin J. Dunitz chronicles almost 20 extant murals that predate Siqueiros’, which is the only surviving public mural by the artist in the United States. Yet, the L.A. tradition of artists speaking with an independent voice through paintings on neighborhood walls begins with “America Tropical.”
The painting ranks as the fountainhead for the modern mural movement in the city. Not surprisingly, since the late 1960s its aggressive street poetry has been of special interest to the Chicano movement and its artists.
What’s remarkable about its influence is that, for decades, the mural has been as much legend as fact, for although it was known through photographs, its deterioration has been severe. Efforts to restore it to its rightful place of prominence began in earnest almost a quarter-century ago. The road back has been long and difficult, and countless individuals--artists, historians, civic activists--have contributed to the endeavor.
The significance of the mural places the current conservation effort among the most important the Getty has yet undertaken. Since 1988, the conservation institute has worked with the Friends of the Arts of Mexico Foundation, El Pueblo de Los Angeles State Historic Monument and project consultant Luis C. Garza to rescue the mural. Portions of the plaster had been loosened by years of rain and earthquakes. Paint eroded. Siqueiros had used an unstable binding medium called nitro cellulose for his pigments, which has hastened the disappearance of his colors in direct sunlight.
The portion of the mural censored with white paint by outraged civic leaders in 1932 ironically gained an added measure of security. The Getty’s conservation team, headed by Augustin and Cecelia Espinoza, have removed the remaining white paint, cleaned and consolidated the surface, and reattached loose plaster to the wall. A new temporary shelter was built to protect the mural from the elements.
Seismic stabilization and structural reinforcement of Italian Hall is slated to begin soon. (The Northridge temblor seems not to have damaged the building or the mural.) Architectural plans are under way for a permanent shelter to be built, along with a shaded, public-viewing platform and a contextual display of related historical information, both on the adjacent rooftop.
If all goes as planned, the site could at last be opened to the public as early as next year. More than 1.5 million people annually visit El Pueblo, and the Siqueiros mural will surely rank among its most important attractions.
Of course, the painting is only a shadow of its original self. Conservators can work wonders, but they cannot magically restore what has been so tragically lost. The library murals, preserved indoors and narrowly escaping total destruction in the 1986 arson fire, retain almost all their original pageantry the worn and faded Siqueiros mural is a ghostly shade.
Still, like all ghosts of time past, “America Tropical” exerts its own haunting spell. Project consultant Luis Garza is surely correct when he speculates that, once open, the mural will become a shrinelike site for Latinos in Los Angeles. For the tale of these two murals is indeed a tale of two cities, one whose resonant dynamic is still being felt.*
Cornish mines were some of the largest enterprises anywhere in Europe and very much at the forefront of the industrial revolution. The copper industry had grown beyond any other sector in the British economy and it was centred in West Cornwall.
It was during this period that a great deal of what are considered Cornish traditions became ingrained and the culture defined. Similar to other working class, industrial regions spectator sports, particularly rugby, became popular, every town had it's own choir and brass band.
It was also a time of emmigration. It is estimated there are aroun 11 million Cornish descendants around the world in countries such as Australia, South Africa and the United States - The Cornish Diaspora
James Dean dies in car accident
At 5:45 PM on September 30, 1955, 24-year-old actor James Dean is killed in Cholame, California, when the Porsche he is driving hits a Ford Tudor sedan at an intersection. The driver of the other car, 23-year-old California Polytechnic State University student Donald Turnupseed, was dazed but mostly uninjured Dean’s passenger, German Porsche mechanic Rolf Wütherich was badly injured but survived. Only one of Dean’s movies, st of Eden,” had been released at the time of his death (“Rebel Without a Cause” and “Giant” opened shortly afterward), but he was already on his way to superstardom𠄺nd the crash made him a legend.
James Dean loved racing cars, and in fact he and his brand-new, $7000 Porsche Spyder convertible were on their way to a race in Salinas, 90 miles south of San Francisco. Witnesses maintained that Dean hadn’t been speeding at the time of the accident–in fact, Turnupseed had made a left turn right into the Spyder’s path𠄻ut some people point out that he must have been driving awfully fast: He𠆝 gotten a speeding ticket in Bakersfield, 84 miles from the crash site, at 3:30 p.m. and then had stopped at a diner for a Coke, which meant that he𠆝 covered quite a distance in a relatively short period of time. Still, the gathering twilight and the glare from the setting sun would have made it impossible for Turnupseed to see the Porsche coming no matter how fast it was going.
Rumor has it that Dean’s car, which he𠆝 nicknamed the Little Bastard, was cursed. After the accident, the car rolled off the back of a truck and crushed the legs of a mechanic standing nearby. Later, after a used-car dealer sold its parts to buyers all over the country, the strange incidents multiplied: The car’s engine, transmission and tires were all transplanted into cars that were subsequently involved in deadly crashes, and a truck carrying the Spyder’s chassis to a highway-safety exhibition skidded off the road, killing its driver. The remains of the car vanished from the scene of that accident and haven’t been seen since.