Mural at the East Chicago Public LibraryPhoto courtesy of Justine Petrukitas Rumas © All Rights Reserved
A New Deal agency commissioned the artist Ernest Kasas to paint the mural titled “The Gift Of The Book To Mankind” at the the East Chicago Public Library. While sources attribute the work to the Federal Art Project, given the date (1934, which pre-dates the WPA) it is likely that the work was actually commissioned under the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP).
The history and characteristics of the mural are described by the East Chicago Public Library, thus:
“The mural on the back wall over the Reference Desk at the Pastrick Branch was painted by Ernest Kasas of Indiana Harbor (East Chicago), as a WPA (The Works Progress Administration) Arts Project.
It was completed May 1934, was unveiled on January 24, 1935. The Hungarian Consul in Chicago and Frank V. Dudley, noted Dunes artist, were present at the unveiling. The Title: ‘The Gift Of The Book To Mankind.’
The central figure is represented as awarding the public branch, typing success, to those who have made a wise use of books and reading.
The painter and radio announcer in the mural is Ernest Kasas and the man with the beard is his father. Other models were students from high school. The size of the mural is 36 x 64 long.”
The young man to the right of the woman playing what looks like a banjo is wearing a “WHS” jacket for East Chicago Washington High School. The man pictured on the newspaper is FDR.
Ernest Gyimesy Kasas was a Hungarian artist who painted on canvas and burlap and focused on figure studies and landscapes. Originally from Transylvania, the artist was trained in Budapest and produced works that show diverse stylistic influences. Before emigrating to the United States, Kasas produced easel paintings in the Fauvist style, using bright, vivid colors. His works also show Beaux Art and classicist influences. Kasas completed several works as part of the Works Progress Administration Arts Project and his commissioned murals also include some Social Realism elements, characteristic of the Federal Art Project works. In 1935 he painted a mural for the East Chicago Municipal Court. Kasas taught art in Boston and New York and received several awards.
East Chicago Public Library, Mural History: (http://www.ecpl.org/page1/page50/), accessed August 6, 2018.
Hammond Times, November 1935: (https://newspaperarchive.com/hammond-times-nov-08-1935-p-), accessed August 6, 2018.
Ernest Kasas, Chicago Fine Art: (https://www.chicagofineart.org/artist/ernest-kasas), accessed August 25, 2018.
Project originally submitted by Gloria McMillan on August 6, 2018.