The Mural: Allegory of the Arts

The mural Allegory of the Arts The mural at the base of the grand chandelier in Springer Auditorium was painted by New York artist Conrad Arthur Thomas (1858-1932). It is believed that he was commissioned to do the work by William F. Behrens, an interior decorator well known throughout the east and someone who had worked with Samuel Hannaford. Sources are at odds concerning the installation: some place it occurring in the late 1890s with the first renovation of Music Hall, others indicate that the work was commissioned and completed in 1905. The painting took seven months to complete. Afterward, it was covered with a protective layer of parafin wax.

The painting, named ''Allegory of the Arts'', is in the shape of a large, shallow saucer. It is a richly-colored, Neo-Baroque oil painting that includes figures that represent Music, Literature, Science and History. In those days even the center building, which included Springer Auditorium, was used for exposition and meeting space. Over the years, the mural became coated with dirt and smoke from heating devices, smoking tobacco and the light fixtures used to illuminate the room. It was ''rediscovered'' in 1941 when the ceiling of Springer Auditorium was cleaned.

Thomas was primarily known as a painter of Native American art. The Music Hall mural is one of several of Thomas's work that remain. His work remains on display in Louisville, where he painted murals in the lobby of the Seelbach Hilton Hotel (again using the Baroque style), in the chamber of the Board of Aldermen in City Hall, St. Louis, Missouri, and in the DeKalb County Courthouse. The Courthouse actually features two murals by Thomas: allegories of Justice and Liberty are in the Circuit Courtroom, and the murals in the east stairwell are of the Spirit of Progress and the Spirit of Industry.

RELATED INFORMATION

The Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati has online the ''Biographical Dictionary of Cincinnati Architects, 1788-1940'' by Walter E. Langsam, a board member of SPMH.

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