In 1936, when Edward Millman was the state director of mural projects for the FAP, he was commissioned to convert a blank 400 square-foot wall in the City Hall offices of the former Bureau of Water (current Service Center) into a 10’ x 27’ fresco that would portray the importance of water in humanity. “The Blessings of Water” was completed in 1937. The right side of this narrative mural portrays the suffering caused by lack of water and the miserable rural setting caused by the Dust Bowl. On the contrary, the left side is a celebration of the life that water abundance permits.
Edward Millman (1907-1964) was born in Chicago and studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). His specialty was fresco painting, in which thin colors are applied directly on freshly plastered surfaces to permanently fuse the paint with the plaster. He mastered this method while working under the well-known Mexican muralist Diego Rivera (1886-1957), whose influence can be clearly observed in this mural. Millman’s work usually related to social justice issues and represented the life of working middle class people.
In 1970, the room was separated into two spaces and the mural was covered by a false wall but in 1995 the space was redesigned, the wall was removed, and the mural was restored by the Department of General Services. This piece of art is part of the City of Chicago Public Art Collection.
Lackritz Gray, Mary. "Central Area - City Hall." A Guide to Chicago's Murals. Hong Kong: U of Chicago, 2001. 52-53. Print. Meyerowitz, Lisa. "Edward Millman." Modernism in the New City: Chicago Artists, 1920-1950. Bernard Friedman, n.d. Web. 12 May 2015. . Service Center, City Hall. “The Blessings of Water”. Chicago, IL: City Hall, 1937, Plaque.
Project originally submitted by Ligia Sandoval on May 13, 2015.
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