Tag Archives: Art

Murals | 1934 Works by Local Artist

Several weeks ago, fellow blogger shoreacres posted a story about murals she enjoyed while poking around the environs of Arkansas and Missouri. A visit to her post is well worth the time. I found her pictures of them and the background stories very interesting.

Soon after her post, I visit our local shopping mall which opened in 1998. It has 4 large murals on walls of the walkway depicting scenes of Iowa. They add some visual interest to the mall.

This past week two much older murals were put on public display. Originally, eight were commissioned for display by the Hotel Jefferson in downtown Iowa City in 1934. The works were done by Mildred Pelzer but were not part of the Works Progress Administration murals in which started in May 1935. After Pelzer’s murals were finished, the eight were listed as a tourist attraction on display in the hotel.

In 1949, the hotel was remodeled. The murals were taken down for storage and never put back up. In 1970, the two shown here were discovered in the basement of the hotel. Three others were discovered later in the old city hall building. Three others are still missing. These two, Railroad Arrives and Stage Ready, are now on display in the Senior Center and the Public Library in Iowa City.

Railroad Arrives | Click to embiggen

Stage Ready | Click to embiggen

More of the story about the paintings and the artist is available in this sign posted next to the railroad painting.. It needs to be enlarged for readability.

The Artist

There was a Japanese emperor who hired an artist to paint a rooster for him. The emperor was a patient man, so when the painting was not immediately forthcoming, he was not very concerned. Even so, years went by. How difficult was it to paint a rooster? The artist was benefitting from the patronage of the emperor, living in the palace grounds, eating the food provided, yet he had not produced the painting. After twenty years the emperor’s patience was spent. He went himself to the artist’s rooms to inquire about his painting.

The artist was startled to be visited by the emperor, but he bowed deeply and invited the other man to have a seat. “Please wait here, and I will get your painting.” The artist retreated into his studio. The emperor could hear him, singing softly to himself, puttering around.

After many minutes the emperor could take it no more. He leapt to his feet, as well as a now aging man could, and filled the doorway of the studio with his presence. “Twenty years I’ve waited and still you make me wait! Why should I not execute you now?”

The artist did not react to the threat, but stepped from his easel and said, “I am almost done now. Do you like it?”

The emperor’s temper calmed as he saw before him the perfect rooster. In simple lines it showed the rooster turned to look over its shoulder at him, just as he’d hoped. But then the man noticed dozens, no hundreds of other paintings almost the same, lining every surface of the room. To his eye, they all looked perfect, too.

“Did you just paint the rooster on the easel?” the emperor asked.

“Yes, your Majesty.”

“If you have painted all these other roosters, why do I not have one yet? Why have I waited twenty years for something you could do long ago, something you could do in just a few minutes?”

“Oh, your Majesty, I could not,” said the artist. “It has taken me this long to learn how to paint the perfect rooster. None of those before were good enough to give you.”