Thursday, September 25, 2014

Memories of Metropolitan Life - and of some artwork there. . .

[Thanks to Anne Gnagi, a friend and former classmate at SUNY Geneseo, for unknowingly providing me with the inspiration and motivation to do this. . . .]

Haven't been on this blog in a very long time. A few years ago, when they told me they were going to start charging me because I had exceeded the free storage space allowed, I decided to stop writing.  Gonna try again now. . .  hoping that just maybe they've upped the storage space limits that are allowed for free.

Here goes.

Been idly "surfing the 'net" this afternoon.  The following is something I just found on a site  It interests me because these are the murals that I saw in the basement of the old Met Life "North Building" in Manhattan nearly every single workday in the 1970s. . .  in the basement cafeterias, the waiting-lines/lounge areas outside the cafeterias and in the stairwells while on my way back up from the cafeterias there in the basement to the ground-floor lobby. . . .

What another website writes about N.C. Wyeth and these murals is interesting:

"Like many illustrators Wyeth chose murals as one path to lasting fame[. . . .  ]  His most ambitious project was a set of murals for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. He was working on these beautiful images (sample below) when he died."

Michael and Beth (and maybe James?) may remember coming to the city with Eleanor to visit me at work and having lunch with me in that cafeteria.  There were many other murals by N.C. Wyeth as well as Andrew Wyeth in the cafeterias themselves and in the lounge/waiting-line-for-the-cafeteria areas of the basement. Most of them were of the Pilgrims in scenes depicting them working, going to church and celebrating Thanksgiving. This one in particular, I remember vividly. . . of a Pilgrim wedding procession, as imagined by Wyeth:

Others were of more birds (a flock of blackbirds flying across a dreary-looking sky adorned another stairwell) and there was one in particular of John and Priscilla Alden - which I believe was among many others right in the cafeteria - that I found online now:

There were many more there - every wall in the full city block area of the cafeterias was covered with murals. But eventually - in the 1980s - all of the murals were "peeled" off of the walls on their original canvasses (see that website mentioned above - by Hudson & Salah Art Conservation Studios)  and sent 'on tour' around the country to many museums.  Where they are now, I have no idea.  But there is a book that was printed at the time they were sent on that tour that I'd like to get - and put on my coffee table - some day. . .

Just another interesting (to me at least) tidbit about the North Building. . . .  It started being built in the late 1920s or early 1930s and was planned to become the world's tallest building, topping out at 100 floors. Because of financial constraints, tho, especially including the Great Depression, construction was done in stages - and those stages were added in ever-so-more-slowly fashion until construction finally ceased completely at the 29th floor.

I really do believe that the 1920s management of Met was serious about making the North Building the world's tallest because the South Building (clock tower) was the tallest building in the world from 1909 - when it was completed - until 1913, when the Woolworth Building opened downtown. (Having been robbed of the title of World's Tallest Building after a mere four years they and their scions must've been steamed.)

I did work in that South Building, too, on the floor just above the clock - and we could hear the clock's Big Ben-like chimes while at our desks, (altho they were heavily muffled by soundproofing) bonging every quarter-hour.
The truncated North Building & the South Tower of the old Met Life "campus" on lower Madison Avenue in Manhattan

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