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ALTON  S. TOBEY

The Founders of Hartford mural

          This five by thirteen foot mural, painted in egg tempera, was the result of a Public Works Administrtion national competition held in 1940, when Tobey was still an art student at Yale. The painting was influenced by the works of Italian fresco painter Piero della Francesca, and the style is different from the realism that characterizes most of Tobey's other historical works. Although popularly referred to as "The Founders of Hartford", the complete title of the work is "The Stop of Hooker's Band in East Hartford before Crossing the River." More information on the history of the WPA murals can be found on Nancy Lorance's WPA Murals home page. The full-color preliminary oil painting for this mural, executed by Tobey preliminary to the execution of the mural itself (as he always did) measures 26 x 44-1/4 inches, and is currently in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.

         

  

The Founders of Hartford, Connecticut

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           The scene in the painting is of Thomas Hooker addressing his little band of Puritan settlers just before they crossed over the Connecticut River in 1636 to found the city of Hartford. "To express the attributes of the Puritans, stylistically it had to be severe and monumental," Tobey said.

            "Tobey's work, as an example that can represent countless other artists working in the New England area, is distinctive to the region because of the history his work commemorates. It gives New England area residents a sense of pride in their land. This pride becomes contagious, just as the federal government hoped it would and it becomes a part of the lifestyle of the residents of that specific region.

            "This increase in pride translates directly to an increase in national pride as well. Thus the cultivation of regional diversity in the New England area did not contribute only to the growth of the cultural and heritage awareness of that individual region, but ultimately had an effect on the growing awareness of a national culture as well".

"The Art of The Great Depression"
University of Virginia

 

          Recently restored in 1993 by Raymond E. Tubbs, art experts say that "Tobey's mural is a fine example of public art commissioned by the federal government in the 1930's and 1940's." A photograph of the mural by John Flint as it appears in the library can be seen on this WPA Murals website page.

 

 

 

 In honor of the restoration of the mural, this special hand cancellation stamp was made and the artist signed a number of envelopes bearing the stamp.

"The mural has been purposely kept simple and severe to represent the character of our founders. I have painted in large solid forms, to denote a stock of people able to withstand privation and to found a city. The low key of the colors further bespeaks the restraint and temperateness of their lives."

---Alton Tobey

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