Renowned and versatile Art Deco muralist Hildreth Meière (1892-1961) is the subject of the Museum of Biblical Art’s exciting new exhibition Walls Speak: The Narrative Art of Hildreth Meière. On view from February 3 to May 20, 2012, Walls Speak showcases the liturgical designs this path-breaking artist created for many of the New York metropolitan area’s most iconic places of worship, including Temple Emanu-El; Saint Bartholomew’s Church; St. Michael’s Passionist Monastery Church in Union City, New Jersey and other religious landmarks.
Organized by the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts at St. Bonaventure University and curated by Catherine Coleman Brawer, the exhibition features over 90 objects, including hand-painted altarpieces and full-scale sample mosaics. Also on view are the gouache studies, cartoons and models that were the basis for Meière’s completed designs, as well as photographs of some of her most storied commissions. This is the first presentation of Walls Speak to focus exclusively on Meière’s magnificent work for synagogues and churches. Visitors will rediscover a major American muralist whose cutting-edge approach to design, material and technique propelled her to prominence at a time when few female artists had gained acceptance and whose artistry richly enhanced sacred spaces.
Specializing in mosaic—now a nearly lost art—Hildreth Meière was one of the most celebrated and prolific muralists of the 20th century. An early proponent of Art Deco, she drew inspiration from the medieval mosaics of Ravenna and the Renaissance murals of Florence, bringing streamlined contemporary style to traditional motifs. She received her first major commissions from leading architect Bertram G. Goodhue and during her career completed over 100 projects which were evenly split between the secular and religious. She left her mark on New York City’s vast landscape, including the 1939 New York World’s Fair, Radio City Music Hall, the Red Banking Room at One Wall Street and Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. In 1956, she became the first woman to receive the Fine Arts Medal of the American Institute of Architects, and was the first woman appointed to the New York City Art Commission.
“Hildreth Meière is an artist who left an indelible imprint on New York City,” said Dr. Ena Heller, Executive Director of MOBIA. “The exhibition explores her role in the decoration of many of America’s most magnificent houses of worship and reveals her as a creative force who deserves a place amongst the most accomplished artists of the 20th century.”