Clements and Lundeberg, "History of Southern California" (detail), Venice High School – Los Angeles CA
Grace Rivet Clements and Helen Lundeberg painted two 18′ by 33′ frescoes for Venice High School (Los Angeles, CA) in 1941: “History of Southern California” and “History of Early California.” Located in the school library, the frescoes were funded by the WPA Federal Art Project (FAP). The artists were assisted by Aurel J. Leitner, Edwin T. Emery, Miriam Farrington, and Serena Swanson.
Sylvia Moore writes that the frescoes “narrate the history of California in unrelated vignettes that seem to float across the walls of the library. On the east wall is the History of Early California, the age of exploration, with scenes of Magellan, Drake, Cortes, Balboa and Cabrillo. On the sides are local Hupa Indians and Father Junipero Serra and the development of the missions. […] On the west wall is The History of Southern California, starting with the mission period through the development of the city of Venice. […] The colors are strong and crisp and the story is beautifully portrayed. Clements even incorporated her own name into the painting, naming one of the ships ‘Grace'” (1989, pp. 24-25).
Clements and Lundeberg were both members of the Southern California “Post-Surrealists.” Moore writes that Post-Surrealists “continued working in modernist styles during the 1930s by juxtaposing the acceptable New Deal style of Regionalism with their private explorations in more progressive styles” (p. 22).
Clements’ FAP works include Senior Bench (1937), a mosaic at Santa Monica High School; Recreation in Long Beach (1938) at the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium (then the largest cut-tile mosaic in the United States); The Spirit of Music (1939), a mural at Damien High School in La Verne, CA; The History of Aviation (1940), a fresco painted with Jean Goodwin Ames at Charles A. Lindbergh Middle School in Long Beach, CA; and Communication (Aviation and Navigation) (1942), a series of murals and mosaics in the Long Beach Airport.
Lundeberg’s FAP-funded works include the mural History of Transportation (1940) at Edward Vincent, Jr. Park in Inglewood, CA; Quests of Mankind (1940), murals at Canoga Park High School; History of California (1941), a mural at the Fullerton City Hall (now the Fullerton Police Department) in Fullerton, CA; and a series of three murals, Preamble to the Constitution, Free Assembly, and Free Ballot (1942) for the Bob Hope Patriotic Hall in Los Angeles, CA.
Lundeberg said, “The FAP made it possible for me to work full time as a professional artist at a time when the ‘art market’ was extremely depressed. It also…gave my general self confidence a boost…obliged me to undertake things I might not otherwise have dreamed of doing” (qtd. Moore, p. 23).
Daniel Hurewitz, Bohemian Los Angeles and the Making of Modern Politics (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2007).
Sylvia Moore, Yesterday and Tomorrow: California Women Artists (New York: Midmarch Arts Press, 1989).
“Grace Clements (Artist),” in Wikipedia, September 13, 2022.
“Helen Lundeberg,” in Wikipedia, November 21, 2022.
Project originally submitted by Natalie McDonald on January 19, 2023.
Additional contributions by Andrew Laverdiere.
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