In May of 1926, thirty beautiful murals were completed to adorn the ceiling of the Main Library lobby. F. R. Walker of the famous Walker & Weeks architectural firm designed the murals. Joseph F. Sturdy of Chicago and a team of artists were enlisted to artistically realize them. The style was based on the Italian Renaissance. These traditional representations of art ran counter to the emerging modern art movement of the day. Unlike the style, however, the construction of the murals was contemporary. Mural artists painted on large pieces of canvas that were fastened overhead, rather than the murals being painted directly on the ceiling. Such a method was applied at the Library of Congress and the Boston Public Library.
A listing of the large murals (small murals not included in this list):
Lobby Entrance - Right side
1. Ptolemy I (ca. 367-283 B.C.), was the founder of the Great Library at Alexandria, Egypt, wrote a history of Alexander. This figure also represents Claudius Ptolemy the great astronomer.
2. Allegory of the Fine Arts: Architecture is enthroned; her head silhouetted against a Greek Doric Column, a Grecian vase supports her left arm; and a triangle rests on her lap. Sisters Painting and Sculpture are seated beside her.
3. Homer, ancient Greek poet, was the author of The Iliad and The Odyssey.
4. Plato, Greek philosopher, was the disciple of Socrates and teacher of Aristotle, 5th Century B.C.
5. Leonardo de Vinci, 1452-1519, was an Italian painter, architect, sculptor and inventor.
Lobby Entrance - Left Side
1. Moses, Hebrew prophet, typifies moral law, hygiene and ancient religion.
2. Allegory of the Mechanical Sciences: Electricity is the dominant figure and greatest power in modern industry. In her left hand, she holds a golden that alludes to Benjamin Franklin’s early experiments and in her other she holds an electric bulb. Mechanical Engineering, at the right, reviews a model of a Roman viaduct, anticipating modern construction. Chemistry, seated at the left, examines the contents of a test tube.
3. Confucius, (ca. 551-479 B.C.), was a great Chinese philosopher and he symbolizes Eastern wisdom.
4. Augustus Caesar, 63 B.C.-14 A.D., was the first Roman Emperor.
5. William Shakespeare, 1564-1616, was an English poet and dramatist.
For more information see: Cleveland Public Library (1999), The Art, Architecture, and Collections of the Main Library: A Self-Guided Tour.