Tobey The Man

      Master of Realism

    Beyond Realism
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The Camp Field Library Mural

Hartford, Connecticut






          The fresco mural on the inner wall of the foyer of the Camp Field Branch of the Hartford Public Library, painted by Tobey in 1939, is a unique architectural feature. It is a true fresco, that is, the color was applied to wet plaster in such a way that it becomes an integral part of the plaster. The mural was completely restored in 1988 by Gordon MacDonald and again in 2000 by Raymond Tubbs. All the subjects in the painting, with the exception of the last, are taken from the works of Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

          The first panel on the left, from Mark Twain's Joan of Arc, depicts the coronation of Charles VII. Joan of Arc places the crown upon his head, making him King of France. Behind her stand French soldiers and the standard bearer. Mark Twain, with his Hartford home in the background, is the main figure in the square panel on the left. On his right is Will Rogers as the Conecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court; behind him is Merlin the villain. King Arthur tranquilly combs his beard with his fingers as he gazes at the Connecticut Yankee and his magic rope.

          Huckleberry Finn is pictured in battered hat, dangling a frog as Tom Sawyer, standing beside him, whispers some mischief in his ear. The next panel depicts Aunt Polly and her medicine bottle. With her is Becky Thatcher. Jim the handyman stands behind them. John Canthy, dressed as the Prince, pleads desperately with Henry VIII while the Prince, in pauper's guise, looks on.

          The next panels are scenes from Uncle Tom's Cabin. The first of the panels shows a Southern gentleman in a slave market. In the next, Eliza, clutching her son, is seen being comforted by a Quaker woman who has befriended her. Abraham Lincoln looks silently in the background. In the square panel to the right, Topsy is sitting before Harriet Beecher Stowe. At the left, Simon Legree stands with his bloodhounds. Uncle Tom, holding Little Eva's hand, is on Mrs. Stowe's right. The Stowe home on Forest Street is in the background for this panel.

          The last panel on the right shows a group of Union soldiers holding flags, among which that of the Connecticut Volunteer Infantry can be identified. The main figure is Harriet Beecher Stowe's son Frederick who was mortally wounded in the Civil War.


The Alton Tobey Collection
New York: 212.260.9240 -- Chicago: 773.472.2659
Judith Tobey, David Tobey; Directors -- Joe L. Dolice, Curator -- Josh Smithson, Projects Manager

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