Margolis at work on mural, 1940Federal Art Project, Photographic Division Collection, Negative P4125-8
“Materials of Relaxation,” by David Margolis was one of over a dozen murals that the Federal Art Project arm of the Works Progress Administration commissioned for the Psychiatric Building at Bellevue Hospital in the mid and late 1930s. “Materials of Relaxation” is a nine-panel mural located inside the 1st Avenue entrance of the old Bellevue Hospital building. Margolis painted the mural between 1937 and 1941. The New Deal Art Registry lists Richard Lillis and Vincient LaGambino as assistants for the mural project. However, Terenchin Gallery in Hudson, New York lists artist Morris Shulman as a fresco assistant for the project.
The panels are entitled “Nature,” “Agriculture,” “Industry,” “Research”; “Construction,” “Deconstruction,” “Reconstruction”; “Recreation and Education”; and “Fruit Processing.” Because of lack of space the hospital had, by 1945, turned the mural area into storerooms, and the murals were all but lost. During a redesign of the hospital in the early 1990s, however, the mural panels and the artist were rediscovered. In 1994 Margolis and an assistant, Loretta Kielar, undertook restoration work on the newly discovered murals.
In a 1994 New York Times article about the mural project, Margolis recalls that,
“I painted all of them from 1937 to 1941…I had two other painters working with me. I was paid just $26.50 a week, but it was wonderful. I was here weekends, nights. I was painting in a place of distress. All around me, it was like it is today. So many people, so much drama. Life, death. Crying, screaming and also laughing. And in the middle I was painting murals that told the story of human progress. Nature. Agriculture. Industry. And the central panels by the doorway representing Construction, Destruction and Reconstruction. Remember, it was the Depression.”
Wikipedia:"Bellevue Hospital Center", last accessed March 2016 NY Times (10/29/94): "ABOUT NEW YORK; A Fresh Coat of Paint on the Past", last accessed March 2016 Terenchin Gallery, Hudson NY: "Morris Shulman (1912-1978)", last accessed March 2016 New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation Art Collection: David Margolis The New Yorker, April 17, 1937, P. 46: "A Reporter at Large" New Deal Art Registry: Bellevue Hospital The New York City Design Commission: Bellevue Hospital WPA Murals Wikimedia Commons: Bellevue Hospital Center Murals
Project originally submitted by Evan Kalish on September 27, 2014.
We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.SUBMIT MORE INFORMATION OR PHOTOGRAPHS FOR THIS SITE