Murals

Charles Kassler, Jr. 1934. Beverly Hills Post Office (Santa Monica Boulevard and Canon Drive).

I visited the historic post office building in February 2010. Textual information is courtesy of a small exhibition in the post office, which was at that time undergoing renovation and repurposing toward the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.

"Kassler chose the Public Works Administration (P. W. A.) as his theme for these three lunettes because he felt himself to have a "very vital part in the project," which he believed was saving the American way of life. In the first lunette of the series, Kassler shows people lined up at the paymaster's window, and in the other two lunettes he paints them being "met by their dear ones who help them buy with this money the necessities of life for which they have been sorely in need." Not a word of objection came from Washington about the content of Kassler's murals, although several Treasury Relief Art Project (TRAP) personnel questioned some elements of his composition, especially his crowding of figures. Kassler responded that people did in fact crowd around paymaster's windows and that he was trying to convey a sense of "human joy in being paid for the work." As an artist, Kassler felt he was not painting unemployment, but working people returning to a fully functioning society. In looking at the drawings please note the number of people in the original Pay-Master Entrance sketch and the number of people in the final mural located in the lobby."

"P.W.A. Construction: In the first lunette of this series, Kassler painted artists like himself working on a federal art project. In fact, the art project is one Kassler himself created. The images of the bison, building and scaffold refer to "The Bison Hunt" which Kassler had painted on the exterior of the Los Angeles Public Library the year previous. Unfortunately, the fifty foot fresco was damaged by rain runoff over the years and was painted out in 1963. As with previous murals, the subject matter was not questioned but its design criticized by Washington. On December 28, 1935, Olin Dows, Chief of the Treasury Relief Project wrote Charles Kassler:'...one suggestion made by the Supervising Architect concerning the buffalo in teh end panel to the left. He felt that the large buffalo on which the man is painting, and toward which the man coming up the ladder is pointing, looked a bit cramped and he was disturbed by the drawing of this animal. He felt that the distoration of the animal was particularly unsuccessful.'"


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