Reference Room Murals
Reference room murals "The Arts of Peace" (west wall) and "The Arts of War" (east wall), by Gari Melchers, were originally painted for the Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building at the Chicago World's Fair in 1892-93. In 1895, UM President Angell requested that the paintings be given to the University of Michigan. They were received in 1895 and were hung in University Hall in 1896. In 1918, when plans for a new library building were underway, it was decided that the murals would hang in the main reading room. The reference room, 50 feet high at the center of the barrel vaulted ceiling, was specially designed to accommodate the murals (Beaubien, 1971b).
"The murals at either end of the Reference Room, above the windows, (which have been in the Graduate Library since its opening in 1920) were originally painted for the Manufactures and Liberal arts Building at the Chicago World's Fair by Gari Melchers, a Detroit born artist. In 1892 he and several other distinguished American artists were called together in Chicago to work on the World's Fair. These paintings, "The Arts of Peace" and "The Arts of War" were Mr. Melchers' creation. In October of 1895 the executive committee of the Field Colombian Museum in Chicago responded to President Angell's request that the pictures representing the arts of war and peace be given to the University. The Board of Regents accepted the paintings and in 1896 had them placed on each side of the stage in University Hall. (University Hall was completed in 1870 and was located where Angell Hall now stands. It was the old center for University activities before Hill Auditorium was built in 1913.) In 1918 it was decided that these murals would be placed over the windows in the main reading room of the new general library."
"The paintings were done in oil on canvas. In "The Arts of Peace", according to the World Colombian Exposition, "Every figure seems bent on acquiring knowledge. Even the mother takes time from the care of her babe and becomes an interested listener to words of wisdom. The student, the philosopher, the sage, the maiden and the youth are all represented as worshipers at the shrine of knowledge." In "The Arts of War", the same source explains, "The hunters are returning. Every figure shows the strong characteristics and muscular development caused by constant exercise and endurance. . ." Gari Melchers later painted murals for the Library of Congress and the Detroit Public Library in which he treated these same subjects in a different manner." - Anne Beaubien, University Library (Beaubien, 1971b).
- Photos by Sally Bjork