Temple Emanu-El Ark, Mosaic by Hildreth Meière
From a pdf file from the Temple Emanu-El website:
“As in the tradition, Temple Emanu-El’s ark is located on the eastern wall of the sanctuary, facing Jerusalem. Emanu-El’s ark was designed to depict an open Torah scroll, with the side pillars representing staves (atzei chayim) and the finials atop servicing as the scroll decorations (rimonim). The gates become the open scroll with the depiction of the Tablets of the Law set in the center. Emanu-El’s “Torah within a Torah” gives added meaning to the phrase from Pirkei Avot, “Turn the Torah and turn it again for everything is in it.” The distinctive glass-and-marble mosaic arch that frames the bimah was deigned by Hildreth Meière-one of the very few women whose achievements gained the recognition of the established art world during the first half of the 20th century. The work was executed by Ravenna Mosaics of Berlin, whose skilled personnel hand laid the millions of tiles that make up Meiere's designs.”
Hildreth Meière (1892-1961) was one of the most influential and creative decorative artists of the 20th century and ranks with a small number of women artists whose achievements gained the recognition of the art world in the first half of the century according to the International Hildreth Meiere Association website. She was born in New York City. After studying in Florence and exposed to the Renaissance masters, she said “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,” according to Wikipedia. She continued her studies at the Art Students League of New York, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, New York School of Applied Design for Women. She served as a draftsman in the U.S. Navy during World War I after training as a mapmaker. “Her military service proved to be a valuable addition to her training for her career as a mural painter and designer,” according to the Meière website.
After the war, she was introduced to Bertram Goodhue, one of America’s leading architects. Goodhue gave her the opportunity to paint the high altar for one of his church projects, Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church in Mt. Kisco, New York. Afterward, she did most of the mural work for Goodhue’s firm.
She next worked with Goodhue on the National Academy of Sciences building in Washington, D.C. He chose her to do the decorative mosaic work for the dome and arches in the Great Hall.
Goodhue was selected the architect for the Nebraska state Capital in Lincoln. He gave her a great opportunity as the principal designer of the decorative art for the interior of the building to interpret the history and symbolism of the state of Nebraska. She received eight commissions over the next eight years to design the dome, ceilings, floors, and various spaces in the building.
Meière received a Gold Medal from the Architectural League of New York in 1928 for her work on the Nebraska State Capital. This project was at the beginning of her career and established her as a leading designer of mural and mosaic work and interiors, according to the Meière website.
In 1928.1929, she had commissions to design interior mosaics for Temple Emanu-El and Saint Bartholomew’s in New York City. For Saint Bartholomew’s, she used glass mosaic for the ”Tranfiguration of Christ” in the apse above the Altar.
Meière served on the Citizen’s Committee for the Army and Navy, providing altarpieces for military chaplains used on base camps, battleships, and hospitals worldwide.
She served as President of the National Society of Mural Painters and the Liturgical arts Society, First Vice President of the Architectural League of New York (one of the first women members, she received its Gold Medal in Mural Painting in 1928), director of the Municipal Arts Society, and Associate of the National Academy of Design, and was appointed the first woman on the New York City Art Commission.
Some of her most notable work includes:
Mosaics for the Great Hall of the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C.;
Evolution-themed floor and ceiling art in Nebraska’s State Capital, Lincoln, Nebraska;
Saint Bartholomew’s glass mosaic for the ”Transfiguration of Christ” in the apse above the altar, New York City;
75-foot mosaic arch over the sanctuary, and mosaics surrounding the Torah-shaped bronze arc, Temple Emanu-El, New York City;
Radio Center Music Hall building façade: three metal rondels called Song, Drama, and Dance;
Washington National Cathedral, “The Resurrected Christ”.
From the Meière website:
“Hildreth Meière as an artist was a significant figure in several important areas of American visual culture. First, she was most famous as an Art Deco muralist and decorator whose work stands among the most distinguished of her era. Second, she is an important figure in the history of American Liturgical Art, and one of its most ecumenical practitioners. Third, she is one of the preeminent mosaicists in the history of American art. Finally, she is a woman artist who was able to gain the respect of the greatest muralists and architects of her day. In 1956 she was the first woman honored with The Fine Arts Medal of the American Institute of Architects:
A Master of Murals: the world of art might write your name high on the list of the great among our painters and write truly, but not fully. Mosaic, terra cotta, leaded glass, metal, gesso -- these and still other media respond gratefully to the direction of your heart and hands. Your collaboration with architects and other artists brings more than the addition of beauty; it transfuses the joint concept and makes it indivisible. In accepting one more token, added to all the expressions of grateful appreciation your work has earned, you will permit us the realization that you are giving the institute the greater honor.”
She died in 1961. The requiem mass was held for her at Saint Vincent Ferrer Church in New York City, a church designed by Goodhue.