DeWitt Clinton High School Murals – Bronx NY

Description

The third-floor hallway at DeWitt Clinton High School contains two huge New Deal murals by Alfred Floegel, The History of the World (walls) and Constellations (ceiling). The oil on canvas murals were painted in 1934-1940. The History of the World is 5 feet 4 inches high and 194 feet long. Floegel worked on the Clinton High School murals from 1934 to 1940.

In the wall 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.

The Associated Press and the New York Daily News reported in June 2018, that the mural was damaged by being partially covered with a layer of blue paint.

Researcher Frank da Cruz explains the history of the murals:

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 several projects to support the arts and employed jobless artists.  Floegel’s work began under the Civil Works Administration as a Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) [3]. The Federal Art Project (under the Works Progress Administration, WPA) took over 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).  In those days, art (painting, sculpture, music, drama, even puppetry) were considered useful and thousands of artists were employed by the CWA, WPA and Treasury arts programs [1, 2].

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.

 

Source notes

http://kermitproject.org/newdeal/kingsbridge/hallway.html:

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.
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 Academic Cosmos, Yale Last Look, March/April 2007.

10 Bronx school paints over famous New Deal-era mural, NY Daily News, June 10, 2018, accessed June 11, 2018.

11 New York Times, (https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2018/06/16/us/ap-us-mural-painted-over.html) accessed June 17, 2018.

12 NBC New York, (https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/New-Deal-Art-Experts-Say-Painting-Over-Mural-Was-Vandalism-485740611.html), accessed June 17, 2018.

 

Project originally submitted by Frank da Cruz on April 10, 2013.

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Location Info


100 W Mosholu Pkwy S
Bronx, NY 10468

Coordinates: 40.879995, -73.887155

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