THE STATE CAPITOL BUILDING--LINCOLN, NE
Official Title of Installation:
The Nebraska State Capitol Building
Italian marble for the mosaics and R. Guastavino Co. tiles for the walls and ceilings
Additional Materials Information:
Bertram Goodhue, the architect, hired Hildreth Meière to design the mosaic floors, ceilings and walls. The De Paoli Company and the R. Guastavino Company, both of New York, executed Meière's designs: De Paoli in marble and Guastavino in ceramic and "Acustalith" tiles.*
"Her extensive assignment included designs for the ceilings of the foyer, rotunda, senate, and house chambers, the mosaic floor in the foyer and rotunda (patterned after the floors in the Cathedral of Siena); the Indian Tapestry in the senate; the leather doors of the house chamber (modeled after the Tree of Life in Assyrian reliefs, with an Egyptian sun-burst); the gold-leaf friezes in the house; and the domes of both the rotunda and the vestibule. Begun in 1924, Meiere's work on these commissions continued until at least 1932."
"The tile mosaics of Meiere also depend to some extent on antique models. Before deciding on technique, color, and style, she studied floor and wall mosaics in Venice, Ravenna, Siena, and Rome. The influence of such fourth-century art as that in the Basilica of Junius Bassus may be seen in Meiere's use of the technique of opus sectile and in the bright coloration of the decorations for the dome and foyer. That Meiere was not only a capable designer but also an excellent draughtsman can be seen in the treatment of the figure and its relationship to its surrounding space.
In comparison to the murals, the tile mosaics are remarkable for their color. Depending on the space to be decorated -and in many cases the areas seem more decorated than painted the colors vary from the vestibule to the rotunda. In some areas the color of the limestone on the walls and ceilings forms an integral part of the work itself and serves as the background color for groups of figures."**
"Surviving documents illustrate the working relationship during the Nebraska project. Meière sent images of her mural designs to the Guastavino Company, which then fired the correct size and color of the various tiles. The elaborate tile finish work required much more extensive scaffolding than usual for the vault builders. ...Befitting Goodhue's scrupulous vision of craftsmanship, the custom tile pieces were cut by hand to size, taking account of the shrinkage which occurred during firing. Due to the meticulous attention to color, many tiles 'required two and three glaze firings at different temperatures.' Despite this great care, 'Hildreth Meière was a perfectionist and rejected many tiles so the manufacture of many extra batches of tiles became a necessity."***
"The U.S.’ first statehouse to radically depart from the typical design of the U.S. Capitol and to use an office tower, the building has a low, wide base laid out like a cross within a square, creating four interior courtyards. From the center of the three-story base rises the domed tower topped with a 19-foot-tall bronze statue of The Sower by Lee Lawrie, who designed the building’s sculptural elements to pay homage to people of past civilizations, such as the American Indians, Egyptians (which The Sower is modeled after) and European settlers.The building also features exterior stone carvings representing historic events from the evolution of democracy, and the interior features marble-columned chambers with vaulted polychrome tile ceilings, marble mosaic floors and murals depicting Nebraska’s history. The Nebraska State Capitol was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 and is a registered National Historic Landmark."
"The architect who designed the Nebraska State Capitol was Bertram Goodhue. The thematic program of the Capitol was developed by Dr. Hartley Burr Alexander. Sculptor for the Capitol was Lee Lawrie, and Hildreth Meiere designed all the floor and ceiling mosaics. The building was constructed over a ten year period in four building phases. Construction began in 1922 and was completed in 1932. Total cost of the building was just under $10 million." (http://capitol.org/building/history)
"Hartley Burr Alexander...studied Native American cultures, writing extensively on the subject. During his university career he wrote many books and essays on democracy and political thought. He brought this background to the work for Nebraska’s Capitol. ...Alexander’s themes for the program of art and symbolism in the Nebraska State Capitol were based on human settlement in Nebraska and the development of democracy as a form of government. In developing and writing the inscriptions for the interior and exterior of the Capitol Alexander drew upon statesmen, philosophers, Plains Indian lore and his own insight." (http://capitol.org/building/history/team/hartley-alexander/)
"Hildreth Meière (1892-1961) was one of the most influential and creative decorative artists of the Twentieth Century whose achievements gained the recognition of the established art world.
Most of Meière’s spectacular creations are on public view, enhancing buildings, and are revered by those who are familiar with the mosaic murals, wall sculptures, stained glass windows and other unique works - even if they are unaware of the artist.
In the 1930s she was considered the most famous muralist of the Art Deco style, and probably the most prolific in the country." (http://www.hildrethmeiere.com/)
Technical Information (Size,mfg., etc.):
The Capitol was designed by the architect Bertram G. Goodhue from 1922-32.
Year Installed, if different:
Does Installation Still Exist?
Location of Installation:
1445 K Street
Lincoln, NE 68508
Additional Information, Websites, Citations:
***John Ochsendorf, Guastavino Vaulting: The Art of Structural tile, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2010, pp. 173-174. (A further discussion of the making of extra tiles for an installation can be found in Richard Mohr's article, "Art Tiles in the Prairie School: Part II--Griffin + Mahoney + Teco" in the Journal of the American Art Pottery Association, Winter 2012, Vol. 28, No. 1.)
For a virtual tour of the Rotunda: http://its.ne.gov/vt/capitol/rotunda.html
The website of the Capitol is http://capitol.org/ and contains much information about the building and its works of art.
For those interested in reading about Hildreth Meière and her art: Walls Speak: the Narrative Art of Hildreth Meière, Catherine Coleman Brawer, Elaine Banks Stainton, Hildreth Meière Dunn; Franciscan Inst Pubs, St. Bonaventure, NY, 2009.
Another book about the building, its architecture and artworks is A Harmony of the Arts: The Nebraska State Capitol edited by Frederick C. Luebke, the University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 1990.
Submitted by and Year:
Michael Padwee (tileback101"at"collector.org); October 2011.