The Growth of Medicine from Primitive Times by Walter Quirt, doctor’s lounge room of the Psychiatric Building of Bellevue HospitalPhotograph by Levy for the WPA/FAP Photographic Division on Nov. 3, 1938, series 127, exhibit IS, approved Dec. 13, 1938.
In 1937 Walter Quirt completed work on the mural entitled The Growth of Medicine from Primitive Times for the doctor’s lounge room of the Psychiatric Building of Bellevue Hospital. Quirt was one of over a dozen artists commissioned by the Federal Art Project (FAP) arm of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to paint murals for the new psychiatric building at Bellevue Hospital.
John Dorfman of the online journal “Art and Antiques” pronounces Quirt’s mural for Bellevue hospital to be his “…greatest achievement for the WPA…” Dorfman explains that it “…was a panoramic mural…which combined Surrealism and history painting on a grand scale.” Quirt painted the mural towards the beginning of his participation in the Federal Art Project which lasted from 1935 to 1942.
Quirt’s work represented a turn to the left on the part of young artists of that period. His abandonment of social realism and his rejection of Daliesque surrealism led to much criticism and controversy. John Dorfman writes that “Quirt’s objection to Social Realism from a political point of view was that it was “dumbed down” and insulted the intelligence of the very people it was supposed to be appealing to.”
The New York City Design Commission names the artist who painted this mural as Harry Knight. Harry Knight was the New York Federal Art Project’s Assistant Technical Director. In the opinion of this contributor, Walter Quirt is more likely the muralist who painted “The Growth of Medicine from Primitive Times.”
The Living New Deal needs further information to determine the current status of this mural.
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