A Mathews mural is in limbo

October 15, 2017 § 1 Comment

mathews-health

The center panel includes Apollo and the muses, plus Hygeia, goddess of health.

ARTHUR MATHEWS CREATED his three-panel mural Health and the Arts in 1912 for what is now the Health Sciences Library in San Francisco. It has hung there for more than a century. Now the library has gone digital, disposed of its books and put its classical home in Pacific Heights on the market, leaving the fate of the mural uncertain.

The mural was commissioned for the reading room of the library’s classical home, designed by architect Albert Pissis. Mathews at the time was perhaps California’s most important artist, and one who exerted considerable influence over the education of a generation of early California artists and the rebuilding of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake and fire. Other murals by Mathews include a series of 12 panels tracing the history of California in the rotunda of the State Capitol in Sacramento.

A spokesman for the library said “it is too early to tell” about the fate of the mural and that it “depends on a buyer’s intended use for the building.” The Beaux Arts building is being marketed as a “one-of-a-kind development opportunity.”

“Although the murals could be removed, it would be a costly conservation process that would make them even more difficult to sell,” said Harvey Jones, the longtime curator who built the Oakland Museum’s expansive collection of work by Arthur Mathews and his wife, the equally talented artist Lucia Mathews. “It seems unlikely that a new owner will be able to utilize the murals in a new configuration of the spaces. Their artistic appeal is dubious to contemporary business sensibilities.”

Jones, author of The Art of Arthur & Lucia Mathews, added: “I wish there were some reasonable possibilities for optimism here.”

MORE: “Medical library is on the block

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Tonalism in the Holloway collection

March 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

From the Holloway collection: Piazzoni, Oldfield, Mathews, Redmond.

Tonalism in the back room: Piazzoni, Oldfield, Mathews, Redmond.

Jan Holloway writes, in Good Times, Hard Times: I became very interested in the California Tonalist painters — Arthur Mathews, early Granville Redmond, Charles Rollo Peters. The subdued limited palette and soft light were poetic to me.

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The case of the missing mural

August 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

Study for The Commonwealth | Arthur Mathews

Arthur Mathews — the leading artistic figure in San Francisco at the end of the 19th century — was prolific, even in his creation of murals for public spaces. In addition to a 12-panel mural tracing the history of California for the State Capitol in Sacramento, Mathews in 1924 designed The Commonwealth to appear above the bench in the barrel-vaulted courtroom of the California Supreme Court in San Francisco.

In the 1950s the courtroom was given a more up-to-date dropped ceiling and the mural was removed. Then after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the courtroom was remodeled once again and the original barrel vault was restored to its original glory. But the Mathews mural could not be found. In a new article, San Francisco lawyer Ray McDevitt tells the story.

Read more: “The Commonwealth: A Lost Art

Where are the paintings?

February 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

Youth | Arthur Mathews | Oakland Museum

The remaking of the Oakland Museum’s art department continues to spark considerable discussion. What was previously a chronological hanging of California art has given way to a more multidisciplinary approach. This exchange of correspondence between artist Jeff Bellerose and chief curator Philip Linhares offers two prevailing viewpoints.

On 2/7/11 5:03 PM, “jeff bellerose” wrote:

Dear Mr. Linhares:

I was given your email by one of the art guides at the Oakland Museum and I wanted to write to you concerning my visit to your museum. I have long been an enthusiastic supporter of the Oakland Museum, but it is difficult to express my profound disappointment at the new renovation.

The history floor, to start nicely, is very well done — interactive and intriguing and a fine design to try and include and involve kids and adults in the recreation of historical moments. However, the art floor, which has always been my primary reason for visiting, was lacking in, well, art. Where are the paintings?
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Mathews in the neighborhood

March 11, 2007 § Leave a comment

Monterey Cypress | Arthur Mathews | Oakland Museum

Please join us Sunday, March 18, from 3 to 5 p.m. for a discussion and viewing of Health and the Arts, a mural by Arthur Mathews in its original setting at the California Pacific Medical Center Health Sciences Library at Sacramento and Webster Streets. This event is concurrent with the exhibition on Arthur and Lucia Mathews at the Oakland Museum.

The program will include a presentation by Harvey L. Jones, curator of the exhibition at the Oakland Museum, on the life and work of Arthur and Lucia Mathews. Thomas Reynolds, of the Thomas Reynolds Gallery on Fillmore Street, will discuss the Mathews connection to the neighborhood. Their studio and furniture shop was nearby at 1717 California Street.

Read more: “Art met craft

Poppies were her passion

February 2, 2007 § Leave a comment

Poppy Box | Lucia Mathews | Oakland Museum

By STEPHANIE McCOY

It is hard now to imagine the fields of golden California poppies that once covered the hills and filled the valleys in the San Francisco Bay area — or the impact they had on local and visiting artists.

When Eschscholtzia Californica was first adopted as the state flower in 1890, it was an obvious choice. Poppies were so much a part of the consciousness of the state that an entire room was devoted to the golden blossom at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. As a design motif, they showed up on china, textiles, stationery goods and playing cards, even in songs and poems about the state.

It is possible young Lucia Kleinhans found her love of the golden flower on the campus of Mills College in Oakland, where she studied, or in Golden Gate Park, which was sprinkled with the golden buds, and only a few blocks from her family’s home on Fell Street.

It seems more likely it was across the bay in Belvedere, where she spent time in the early 1890s sketching the open fields of flowers, plants and trees with one of her instructors from the California School of Design. They were not concentrating entirely on their artwork. The instructor was Arthur Mathews, who would become her husband and her artistic partner.
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Master of the mural

November 8, 2003 § Leave a comment

The Soil | Arthur Mathews

Join us on Saturday, November 22, 2003, for a discussion on the legacy of Arthur Mathews murals at the African American Museum and Library in Oakland, home of six recently restored Mathews murals, including The Soil (above) and The Grain. Thomas Reynolds, owner and director of the Thomas Reynolds Gallery in San Francisco, will engage Harvey Jones, senior curator of art at the Oakland Museum, in an intimate converation about the life and work of California artist Arthur F. Mathews.

In 1902, Mathews was commissioned to undertake an ambitious plan for 12 large murals for what was then the Oakland Free Library building, financed by industrialist Andrew Carnegie. Only six of the murals were completed, but they remain, according to Harvey Jones, “among the finest examples of the muralist’s art in this country.”

Apparently Carnegie agreed. He said he considered the Oakland public library the most beautiful of any of the hundreds of libraries bearing his name. “The work that Arthur Mathews has done upon the walls of the Oakland library stands as a monument to his genius,” Carnegie told the San Francisco Call in 1911.

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