Meière, Hildreth

Hildreth Meière

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Early life and education

After studying at New York’s Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart, Meiere studied in Florence. Being exposed to the Renaissance Masters, she is quoted as saying, “After that I could not be satisfied with anything less than a big wall to paint on. I just had to be a mural painter.” (Chandler, Don, Hildreth Meiere Profile) She furthered her studies at the Art Students League of New YorkSan Francisco, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, New York School of Applied Design for Women and the Beaux Arts Institute of Design. After training as a mapmaker, Meiere served her country as a draftsman in the U.S. Navy during World War I. During Meiere’s successful career, spanning 30 years and working on over 100 commissions, she became well known for contributing well-integrated public art mosaics to many landmark buildings and is most closely associated with the Art Deco movement. Among many awards, she was the first woman honored with the Fine Arts Medal of the American Institute of Architects, and she was the first woman appointed to the New York Art Commission.

Meiere and sculptor Lee Lawrie were members of the loose “repertory company” of artists assembled by architect Bertram Goodhue. Goodhue’s Nebraska State Capitol was her first major commission, and lead to other work related to Goodhue and his circle. Her work can be seen from New York to California. Some of Meiere’s best work is very visible in Manhattan, although reportedly she was proudest of her work on the Nebraska State Capitol.

Asked how to say her name, she told The Literary Digest (which spelled the name Meière) “It is of French origin and I pronounce it mee-AIR. My father’s family anglicized the pronunciation to meer, but I have always used the more proper form.” (Charles Earle Funk, What’s the Name, Please?, Funk & Wagnalls, 1936.)

Career in Architecture

Meiere served on the Citizen’s Committee for the Army and Navy, providing portable altar pieces for military chaplains. This campaign created over 500 mobile 4’x6’ triptychs, 70 of her own design which could be used on base-camps, battleships, and hospitals worldwide. She taught first aid for the Red Cross after the US entered World War II. The Liturgical Arts Society was founded in her studio at 200 West 57th Street, New York City. In addition she served as President of the National Society of Mural Painters, twice, and Director of the Municipal Arts Society. She was also a member of the Architectural League of New York and the Architectural Guild of America.

Major Buildings and Projects

  • mosaics for the Great Hall dome of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC (with Goodhue)
  • extensive evolution-themed floor and ceiling art within the Nebraska State CapitolLincoln, Nebraska (with Goodhue)
  • floor mosaics at the Baltimore Trust Building, circa 1929
  • mosaics and four stained glass clerestory windows for St. Bartholomew’s Church, New York City (with Goodhue)
  • the 75-foot mosaic arch over the sanctuary, and mosaics surrounding the Torah-shaped bronze ark, for the 1930 Temple Emanu-El, New York City, 1930
  • the three metal rondels called “Song”, “Drama” and “Dance” on the 50th Street facade of the Radio City Music Hall building at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, designed by Meiere with metalwork executed by Oscar Bach
  • also at Rockefeller Center, the recently installed 13 by 17 ft wall sculpture in the underground concourse called “Radio and Television Encompassing the World” that was inspired by a drawing by Meiere,
  • extensive mosaic work for the Red and Gold Banking Room on the ground floor of Bank of New York Building (formerly the Irving Trust Company Building, also known as One Wall Street), New York City (covered)
  • 1933 Chicago World’s Fair Century of Progress, 60′ long x 8′ high painted mural called A Century of Women’s Progress Through Organization for the National Council for Women’s Exhibit in the Social Science Building
  • Washington National Cathedral, “The Resurrected Christ” in the Resurrection Cathedral in Washington, DC
  • SS United States, over-all art consultant (with Austin Purves, Jr.); Cabin Class Lounge, Map of the Mississippi in gesso and metal-leaf, 1952
  • mosaics at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis (New Cathedral), St. Louis, Missouri, one of 20 artists engaged in assembling the largest collection of mosaics in the world
  • painted, carved, and gilded altarpiece at St. John’s, Beverly Farms, Massachusetts
  • mosaic of “Christ the Judge” at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, NY, as the reredos in the chapel of the Bishop’s Crypt
  • glass mosaics behind the altar at St. Aloysius [Catholic] Church, Detroit, MI