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If These Walls Could Speak, They'd Say Her Name - Hildreth Meière, the Forgotten Art Deco Artist (By Celia McGee)

HOW many worshipers, at the 1920s Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan, or St. Bartholomew's Church, the Episcopal bastion nearby, realize - if they notice them at all - that the intricate mosaic ornamentations in these contrasting houses of faith were produced by a singular vision? The same sensibility distinguishes an altar in St. Patrick's Cathedral, and the glistening red mosaic walls at One Wall Street, which turn to orange the higher they go. If audiences dashing to Radio City Music Hall tilted their heads back, they would suddenly be struck by brightly colored figurative roundels on the 50th Street facade. From one coast to the other are many more instances of the same artist's remarkable decorative work, forgotten in plain sight.

Her name was Hildreth Meière, and she rose to fame as the most prominent muralist of her day. Working in an extraordinary range of media for a series of powerful architects, she radically advanced the field, helping to introduce America to the modernism of Art Deco.

Meière was an unmistakable New York blue blood, invariably photographed in her ever-present pearls, her genteel designer attire, her hair upswept and her elegant gaze turned away from the viewer (in photographs of her at work, her clothing is protected by a smock).

Yet the story of her pioneering art and adventurous life were for decades lost on all but a small group of historians versed in Art Deco or American mural art.

Now a handsome monograph, "The Art Deco Murals of Hildreth Meière," (pronounced mee-AIR) may help change all that with its publication this week. In April, two long-lost panels from Meière's 1960 marble mosaic triptych, "The Pillars of Hercules," originally commissioned for the Prudential Plaza in Newark, were formally installed at the Center of Hellenic Studies in Washington. And on May 18, openhousenewyork will offer a tour of Meière's works throughout the city, also noting her murals and mosaics for churches and ocean liners, government buildings and cocktail lounges, business headquarters and children's playrooms.

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