Kingsbridge Heights Bronx - Photo #64 - DeWitt Clinton High School Murals

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hallway
HEADLINE (New York Daily News, June 10, 2018):
Bronx school paints over famous New Deal-era mural
  1. New Deal Art Experts Say Painting Over Mural Was Vandalism, New York Times, June 16, 2018.
  2. Stupidity Alert: Someone Ordered a Priceless Work of Art to be Painted Over at DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, Diane Ravich's Blog, 11 June 2018.
  3. A historic decades-old mural was painted over at a New York high school during a repair project, CNN, June 18, 2018.

The third-floor hallway at DeWitt Clinton High School that contains Alfred Floegel's murals The History of the World (walls) and Constellations (ceiling). This and all the following mural photos were taken on August 5, 2015. The part of the mural that fills the ceiling was painted over in November 2018, see New York Times article.

Alfred Floegel was born in Leipzig, Germany, in 1894 and went to sea in 1912, working on the ship as a painter.[5] He arrived in New York in 1914 and stayed on, with the aim to become an artist. His son Alfred Jr. notes, “In the early years he whitewashed apartments when people moved out. Realize, he came to this country with no money, did not know anyone, could not speak the language. He was being sued by his landlord for back rent when he got this letter“[4]... Referring to notification of a fellowship for him from the American Academy in Rome[5].

Afterwards he met some success as an artist in the USA and Europe, but fell again onto hard times in the Great Depression. Fortunately, FDR's New Deal launched the Federal Art Project (under the Works Progress Administration, WPA) in 1935 because (as WPA head Harry Hopkins said) “artists have to eat too” and, according to Roosevelt's way of thinking, it was better to pay people to do useful work than to put them on “home relief” (i.e. welfare). And in those days, art (painting, sculpture, music, drama, even puppetry) was considered useful and thousands of artists were employed by the WPA, including Alfred Floegel[1]. Floegel worked on the Clinton High School murals from 1934 to 1940[2,4]. Since the WPA was not formed until 1935, the work began as a CWA project[3]. Floegel won the Prix de Rome in Visual Arts in 1925[7] and had works installed in many buildings in the USA including the New Jersey Bell Telephone building in Newark[8], the Eastman School of Music in Rochester NY[4], the Hall of Graduate Studies at Yale University[9], and various churches. He died in Rochester NY in 1976.

In this mural, different eras of world history are represented in sequence, starting at the rear, proceeding up the right wall, then crossing over and proceeding down the left wall. The ceiling is uniformly done in blue and gold, representing the night sky, but the colors are faded and portions of the ceiling are damaged.

References:

  1. Federal Art Project, Photographic Division collection ... 1935-1942, Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution.
  2. From the Principal, The Clinton News, Wedesday June 3, 2015, p.3.
  3. Section of Proposed Mural for De Witt Clinton H.S., Bronx Home News, March 25th, 1934: “As part of the CWA art project for the public schools, artists are at work on the final sketches for the murals to be placed and the wall and ceiling at the entrance to the library at De Witt Clinton High School ... The wall mural, a section of which is shown in the picure, will deal with a history of the world, in which 'various stages in the progress of man in various countries' will be depicted. The ceiling will show 'constellations and signs of the zodiac.'” This is from a clipping that Floegel's son, Alfred Jr., brought with him to DeWitt Clinton High School in 2015.
  4. Handwritten note from Alfred Jr. left with Santiago Taveras, Principal of DeWitt Clinton High School, 2015.
  5. Rent Law Helped Artist to Win Prize, New York Times, June 19, 1922.
  6. Floegel, Alfred Ernst (1894-1976), American Academy in Rome website.
  7. List of Fellows of the American Academy in Rome 1896-1970, Wikipedia.
  8. National Register of Historic Places, Registration Form: New Jersey Bell Headquarters Building, February 8, 2005.
  9. Adademic Cosmos, Yale Last Look, March/April 2007.
  10. The History of the World in One Mural, article by me at Living New Deal, August 28, 2015, which ends: "I did my best to photograph the entirety of the mural and some samples of the ceiling, but a proper job would require elevated platforms and special lighting. It's a job that should be done before this unique work goes the way of so many other WPA murals and is damaged, painted over, or lost in a building reconstruction."
  11. EXCLUSIVE: Bronx school paints over famous New Deal-era mural, New York Daily News, June 10, 2018.
  12. New Deal Art Experts Say Painting Over Mural Was Vandalism, New York Times, June 16, 2018.
  13. A historic decades-old mural was painted over at a New York high school during a repair project, CNN, June 18, 2018.