Detail of Savage, "Carrier of News and Knowledge", Clinton Building - Washington DC
The Clinton Federal Building (north) was originally the US Post Office Department headquarters, completed under the New Deal in 1934. It contains a wealth of New Deal artworks commissioned and paid for by the Treasury Section of Fine Arts – 25 murals and 22 sculptural elements (12 bas-reliefs, 2 statues, 8 wood medallions) – featuring postal themes.
Eugene Francis Savage painted two large (7 x 13.5′) murals for the Post Office Department building: “Carrier of News and Knowledge” and “Messenger of Sympathy and Love”. The works were painted in 1937.
Sarah Gordon says of these murals:
“As the culmination of the U.S. Post Office Department mural series, Eugene Savage’s paintings represent the post as a vital thread connecting human lives. Upon receiving the commission, Savage stated that he was delighted to depict not just the ‘vehicle and mechanics of mail transport [ but also] the human values conveyed which furnish their reason for being.’ The titles of Savage’s paintings, written along the lower edges of the murals, are taken from a poem, The Letter, by Dr. Charles W. Eliot…. Savage’s mural on the left illustrates the first five lines of the poem, and the mural on the right illustrates the remaining four lines.”
The material and style of the murals are quite different from others in the Post Office series:
“Savage…was inspired by thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Italian frescos. Savage so appreciated their aesthetic that he attempted to create the appearance of true fresco in his own painting, even when working in oil…He did this by layering gesso on his canvas for a rough surface and applying paint in thin, transparent layers… In addition to their materials and compositions, Savage’s murals were inspired by the allegorical subject matter of Renaissance artworks.”
The Savage murals hang in the 2d floor of the north wing of the building.
The Clinton building is presently occupied by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is not freely open to the public. To arrange for a tour of the New Deal murals, email [email protected].
Project originally submitted by New Deal Art Registry on July 11, 2014.
Additional contributions by Richard Walker.
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