Skip to main content

New School mural commission documentation

 Collection
Identifier: NS-03-05-01

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of documentation about five artists and the works they created for the New School at its flagship building at 66 West 12th Street, and for later additions to the building. The materials here were gathered and produced by the curators of the New School Art Collection. Materials include correspondence, photographs, documentation of restoration efforts, exhibition catalogs, and promotional materials.

Dates

  • 1931 - 2010

Creator

Extent

1.1 Cubic Feet (3 boxes; 2 DVDs)

2 DVDs

Language of Materials

Primarily in English.

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research use. Please contact archivist@newschool.edu for appointment.

Use Restrictions

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives and Special Collections. Please contact: archivist@newschool.edu.

Biographical Notes

Muralists

Thomas Hart Benton
Born in 1889 in Neosho, Missouri, Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) chose to follow a career in art, rather than politics, where his father and great-uncle had achieved prominence. Benton studied at the Art Institute of Chicago for two years, left for Paris, and moved to New York in 1913, where his work began displaying the principles of modernism that he had absorbed in Paris. He continued to paint in this mode until entering the U.S. Navy during World War I. There he spent two years drawing realistic sketches and illustrations, forever abandoning modernism in favor of a more naturalistic depiction of his subjects. Between 1920 and 1924, Benton traveled throughout the American South and Midwest, drawing and painting. By the end of the decade, he had become known as a leading American Regionalist artist. Benton left New York City in 1935 and moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where he lived for the rest of his life. In addition to the New School commission, Benton received many commissions for murals for public buildings, including the Missouri State Capitol and the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri. He had just completed a mural for the Country Music Foundation in Nashville, Tennessee, at the time of his death, in 1975. (Based on biography provided by the Phillips Collection, Washington D.C.)
Camilo Egas
Camilo Egas (1889-1962) was born in Quito, Ecuador. He studied art there and later in Rome and Madrid. After returning from Europe in 1926, Egas played a pivotal role in founding the Indigenist Movement in Ecuador. Egas was deeply interested in anthropology and archeology, and Andean themes and the struggles of indigenous people remained the focus of his art throughout his life. He also launched Ecuador’s first art periodical, Helice. From 1932 until his death in 1962, Egas taught at the New School. In 1935, he was appointed director of the Art Workshops and, later, director of the Art Department. Egas worked in various styles throughout his career, beginning with Social Realism, later incorporating Surrealism and Neo-Cubism, and finally Abstract Expressionism. In 1939, he made a mural for the Ecuadorian Pavilion of the New York World's Fair, and in the following decades he exhibited his works in Caracas, Quito and New York.
Gonzalo Fonseca
Gonzalo Fonseca (1922-1997) was born in Montevideo, Uruguay. After studying architecture, he became involved with the influential workshop of artist and educator Joaquín Torres-García, who had established a school, El Taller Torres-García, in Montevideo, Uruguay in the 1930s. The school, founded upon similar principles as the Bauhaus, started a movement of abstract art that swept throughout South America. After years of traveling and working on archaeological sites in Peru, Bolivia, Greece, Syria and elsewhere, Fonseca received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1957 and settled in New York City with his wife, Elizabeth Kaplan, daughter of New School board member and philanthropist, Jacob M. Kaplan. After his first public commission at the New School, Fonseca completed numerous commissions in New York City, including a mosaic mural at Queens Medical Center and a sculpture in an experimental park program in the Bronx--both since lost. Fonseca's first solo exhibition was organized in the Portland Art Museum in 1962, followed by another at the Jewish Museum of New York in 1970, and several exhibitions in his gallery, the Arnold Herstand Gallery, in New York, during the 1980s and 1990s. Fonseca was selected to represent Uruguay in the 1990 Venice Biennial. Fonseca died in 1997 in his studio in Seravezza, Italy.
José Clemente Orozco
José Clemente Orozco (1883-1949), alongside Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros, was a leading member of the Mexican muralist public art movement. Orozco came to exert great influence not only in Mexico and Latin America, but also in the United States. Orozco received his first mural commission in 1923, in Mexico, joining the mural program that was initiated at the end of the ten-year agrarian revolution in Mexico. The movement was based upon a belief in public art as a way to educate and motivate people to participate in forging a new Mexican national and cultural identity. Orozco moved to the United States in 1927. He completed three public commissions while in the U.S.: "Prometheus" at Pomona College, 1930; the New School commission, completed January 1931; and "Epic of American Civilization," commissioned by Dartmouth College, completed 1934. Orozco returned to Mexico in 1935, where he went on to complete many more public works, including the celebrated "Man of Fire" in the Hospicio Cabanas in Guadalajara. Orozco died in Mexico in 1949.
Michel Cadoret
Michel Cadoret de l'Epineguen (1912-1985) was born in Paris, France. He studied for three years at l'Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, and later traveled to Germany, Egypt, South America and the West Indies. His first exhibition took place in 1938 at the Musée de la France-Outre Mer in Paris. While serving in the French Army, Cadoret was captured by the Germans in 1940. He escaped, joined the Free French forces in North Africa, and took part in the Normandy Invasion as a liaison officer. In 1946, Cadoret recieved the French government's Prix de Voyage and created lithographs that were used to illustrate a number of books. In 1948, Cadoret's work traveled across the United States as part of the exhibition, "France Comes to You." Cadoret spent three years working in Mexico in the village of Erongaricuaro. In 1954 and 1955, his tapestries, woven in Aubusson, were exhibited along with his paintings, at a homecoming show in Paris at the Galerie Furstenberg. Cadoret's work is owned by museums in France, the United States and South America.

Timeline of New School mural commissions

1930
Thomas Hart Benton receives commission from New School--receives no payment except expenses (including eggs, with which he mixed his tempera paint).
José Clemente Orozco is offered mural commission; donates the work, paid only for expenses.
1932
Camilo Egas is invited to paint mural directly outside dance studio on the lower level of 66 West Twelfth Street; receives no payment.
1931
The school’s new building at 66 West Twelfth Street, designed by Joseph Urban, opens to broad acclaim.
Late 1940s
The boardroom in which Benton's murals line the walls is used increasingly as classroom, making "America Today" vulnerable to damage.
1950s
Responding to accusations of Communist sympathies, New School administrators hang curtain in front of the portion of the Orozco murals that depicts Lenin and Stalin.
Eventually student and faculty protests lead to the removal of the curtain.
1956
Benton returns to New York to clean and restore "America Today."
1957
Gonzalo Fonseca receives $6,000 to create work for lobby of addition at 66 West Twelfth Street.
1959
Unveiling of two murals by Michel Cadoret, "Welcome" and "Cooperation," in New School's List building, 65 West Eleventh Street.
Early 1960s
Camilo Egas dies; "Ecuadorian Festival" remains in basement location, suffering a long period of neglect.
1968
Benton returns for another campaign of cleaning and restoration; he receives an honorary degree from the New School.
1982
Determining "America Today" too expensive to maintain, New School decides to sell it.
1984
Citywide effort keeps "America Today" in New York; Equitable Life acquires mural.
1985
Workers renovating third floor reception area at 65 West Eleventh Street find Cadoret's mural, "Welcome," behind a wall.
1986
Equitable displays newly-restored "America Today" in midtown headquarters lobby.
1987
Orozco murals are deteriorating due to age and use of the room; discussions are underway to move the frescoes to Mexico.
1988
Energetic campaign raises funds for restoration of Orozco murals by Williamstown Conservation Lab, ensuring that the murals remain at the New School.
1995
Restoration completed on Orozco mural cycle; Orozco Room is dedicated as principal meeting place for Board of Trustees.
1996
"America Today" relocates with AXA Equitable to 1290 Avenue of the Americas.
Circa 2000
A wall is erected in front of the Egas mural.
2006
Wall in front of Egas mural is removed; mural is properly stored for safe keeping.
Cadoret mural is discovered in boiler room of 66 West Twelfth Street; it is beyond repair; the other mural is missing.
2010
"Reimagining Orozco" exhibition opens at New School; the Orozco mural cycle is discovered anew by New School students and faculty.
2011
Following the exhibition, Egas's mural is returned to 66 West Twelfth Street, where it is installed prominently in the first floor lobby.
"Ecuadorian Festival" is restored and featured in the New School exhibition, "(re)Collection."
2012
AXA Equitable donates "America Today" murals to Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Organization and Arrangement

Organized in 5 series: I. Thomas Hart Benton II. Michel Cadoret III. Camilo Egas IV. Gonzalo Fonseca V. José Clemente Orozco

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Transferred from the New School Art Collection.

Related Materials

A set of photographs documenting the unveiling of the Cadoret mural will be found in the New School Photograph Collection (NS.04.01.01). Correspondence concerning the Fonseca mural will be found in the university President's Office records. Additional photographic documentation concerning the Fonseca and Orozco murals will be found in the New School Marketing and Communications records (NS.03.01.04).

Processing Information

Most of the biographical and mural commission information in this collection guide was researched and compiled by student fellows for the Parsons School of Design's Curatorial Design Research Lab in October 2015: Fernando do Campo, Sinead Petrasek and Agnes Szanyi.

Title
Guide to the New School mural commission documentation
Status
Completed
Author
New School Archives and Special Collections Staff
Date
June 27, 2016
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin