Greenwich Public Library Mural – Greenwich CT


This 1935 mural by James Daugherty entitled “The Life and Times of General Israel Putnam” was funded by the WPA’s Federal Arts Project. The mural is 9 x 22 feet. It was originally painted for the Greenwich Town Hall but moved to the Hamilton Avenue School in 1940. In 1998, the mural was removed from the school and restored. It now hangs in the Greenwich Public Library.

“At a time when Americans needed heroes to promote patriotic feelings eroded by the Depression, an authentic folk hero presented a superlative mural subject. Putnam’s legendary exploits and courageous actions presented Daugherty with the opportunity to portray a genuine American hero.

Israel Putnam, had played a major role in nearly every patriotic celebration held in Greenwich since 1779, the year of his famous escape from the British. In 1879, the town had commemorated the centennial of General Putnam’s ride by organizing a m[o]mentous celebration that bolstered his legendary status and promoted him as the archetypical hero into the next century.

Daugherty’s mural is the story of the making of an authentic American hero. He began the composition in grisaille using a limited number of figures to analyze its rhythmic movement without the interference of color (cat. no. 15). His next composition, a color study, preserves most of his initial motifs, but sets the tone to employ vivid blues, greens, and yellows, as well as a dazzling white for Putnam’s horse (Fig. 36, cat. no. 16).

Daugherty arranged the composition episodically, but not chronologically, to allow the central section of the mural to portray a seemingly larger-than-life image of General Putnam triumphantly mounted on horseback. The left foreground of the mural presents Putnam’s first act of bravery, the killing of a wolf that had been ravaging the town’s sheep and goats, while in the background is the scene of his perilous escape from the British by riding his horse over a steep precipice. At right, is a frightening image of Putnam being burned alive at the stake during the French and Indian Wars. Those who know the story, know of course that within moments, Putnam was miraculously rescued.”     (

Source notes

Project originally submitted by Charles Swaney on February 16, 2013.
Additional contributions by Hans Johnson.

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Location Info

101 West Putnam Ave.
Greenwich, CT 06830

Location notes: First floor

Coordinates: 41.0287, -73.6296

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