Byron Browne WNYC MuralNational Archives and Records Administration
New York’s largest public radio station, WNYC, was housed in the Manhattan Municipal Building at 1 Centre St. from 1924 until 2008, when it moved to an improved location. In 1939, the building’s Studio B received four WPA Federal Art Project murals by Stuart Davis, Byron Browne, Louis Schanker and John von Wicht.
At the live dedication of the murals, Davis made important and controversial remarks about the state of art, politics and the New Deal, referring to what this summarizer of the broadcast refers to as:
“the flux and struggle around the issue of abstract art during the previous two decades, a state of affairs reflected in the lives of Davis and two of the other muralists: Byron Browne and Louis Schanker. These men, half a generation younger than Davis, one a champion of the purely abstract, the other working somewhat representationally here, were engaged in long-term, active protests of major museums for their neglect of abstract work, both before and after this unveiling…Browne, after adopting abstraction at age 20, claims to have later destroyed all his earlier work. When some of it won a prestigious prize a year later upon his graduation from New York’s National Academy of Design, he famously rejected it, in protest of the school’s refusal to embrace modernism. A few years after this broadcast, he picketed the Museum of Modern Art…
Browne was a member of the first artists’ union and his participation in the American Avant-Garde movement helped make New York City a world art center…
The murals were executed in WNYC’s Studio B during what the Assistant Program Director, Seymour N. Siegel, recalled as a “hot, sticky summer.”…
Browne’s [mural] was damaged and is in pieces in the basement of City Hall under the auspices of the New York City Design Commission.” (https://www.wnyc.org)
We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.SUBMIT MORE INFORMATION OR PHOTOGRAPHS FOR THIS SITE