Dean Cornwell (1892-1960)
Property from a Distinguished New York Collection
Dean Cornwell (1892-1960)

Study for 'The History of Transportation' Mural

Details
Dean Cornwell (1892-1960)
Study for 'The History of Transportation' Mural
pencil and chalk on paper
37 x 100 in. (94 x 254 cm.)
Executed circa 1945.
Provenance
Illustration House, New York, 1 November 1997, lot 73.
Acquired by the present owner from the above.

Lot Essay

The present work is a product of the two years Dean Cornwell spent preparing for the monumental History of Transportation mural in the lobby of 10 Rockefeller Center, primarily leased at the time by Eastern Airlines. Executed at the peak of Cornwell's career, the project immortalizes the airline carrier with a crimson triptych spanning Leonardo da Vinci’s conception of flight to World War II’s transport aircrafts and fighter bombers. In gold and silver leaf, falcons, ox-drawn carts, stagecoaches, hot air balloons, horses, ships, railroads, automobiles and airliners glow across three adjacent walls. When dedicated on May 28, 1946, Cornwell’s mural elicited great controversy when the head of Vassar College refused to attend the ceremony, claiming, “Vassar College cannot indulge in backing anyone so reactionary,” because of the mural's juxtaposition of allegorical figures and naturalistic American life. However, Eddie Rickenbacker, then Eastern Airlines President, defended the project, responding, “I’d like to be your kind of reactionary.” Over 70 years after the dedication of The History of Transportation, this study offers an intimate look at Cornwell’s detailed subjects, bold style and careful draftsmanship.
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