post office mural

Canton Post Office Mural

On January 10, 1936 the new Post Office opened in Canton, Massachusetts. To commemorate the new facility the Federal Government commissioned a mural to hand in the lobby of the building.

The painter was Ernest Fiene, an unemployed artist from New York City, who was given an arts grant. Often mistaken for WPA art, post office murals were actually executed by artists working for the Section of Fine Arts. Commonly known as "the Section," it was established in 1934 and administered by the Procurement Division of the Treasury Department. Headed by Edward Bruce, a former lawyer, businessman, and artist, the Section's main function was to select art of high quality to decorate public buildings—if the funding was available. By providing decoration in public buildings, the art was made accessible to all people. Post offices were located in virtually every community and available for viewing by all postal patrons—which made post office murals a truly democratic art form.

Fiene spent the summer of 1936 in Canton researching the history of the town. His resulting painting is a vivid and remarkable synthesis of the vital elements of Canton's early copper industry, which was located within viewing distance of the new Post Office.

The mural is based on a photograph from the 1850's and measures 11' 6" by 10' 8" with the center scene the Revere Copper Yard. The brick building in the center of the painting was built in 1858 and still stands on the former Plymouth Rubber Company property. Also depicted is Paul Revere's rolling and gun powder mills. The portrait of Revere on the left of the mural is based on a painting of him by Gilbert Stuart. He is shown at his desk examining plans for the building of Robert Fulton's steamboat, Raritan , with Old Ironsides and the State House in the back ground. Revere copper sheathing was used on the ships and on the dome of the State House. On the right of the painting is a scene in the rolling mill with a workman at the furnace while two others are drawing copper at the rolls. The painting arrived in Canton after it had been exhibited in Washington where it had received favorable reviews.

In January, 1937 the "beautiful historical mural was unveiled and depicted Paul Revere as the industrialist. A gift to the people of Canton.

Ernest Fiene was born in 1894. He gained is academic training at numerous art schools in New York City, including the National Academy of Design (1914 - 1918), the Beaux Arts Insititue (1916-1918), and The Art Students League in 1923. Six years later, Fiene left for a tour of Europe. While he was in Paris, he attended L'Academie de La Grane Chaumiere. After returning from France, Fiene began teaching at the Westchester County Center. In 1932 he returned to Europe and headed to Florence, Italy were he would learned the art of fresco painting.

Upon returning to the U.S. Fiene was awarded the post office mural commission titled Paul Revere as an Industrialist in Canton, Massachusetts. One year later, in 1937, the artist was commissioned to do a mural in Washington D.C.

Fiene taught art at a number of school around the country, inlcluding the Colorado Springs Fine Arts (1935) Center and the Cooper Union Institute in New York (1938-1939). He was a member of the Art Students League from 1938-1964 and became a supervising faculty member at Famous Artists School in Westport, Connecticut.

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