Artist: Ethel Spears (1903-1978?)
Title: The Life of Carl von Linné
Medium: Mural frieze in oil on canvas
Artist Ethel Spears painted the life of Carl von Linné (also known as Carolus Linnaeus, 1707-1778) for the elementary school that bears his name. Swedish-born Linné was the first to classify organisms from the plant and animal kingdoms. Spears mural pays homage to the botanists life and work. The largest scene depicts Linnés childhood on a farm in Sweden. His fascination with local flora is made evident as he gathers flowersthe pastime earned him the nickname "the little botanist." Decorative illustrations of plants and animals classified by Linné appear in spaces between windows and in the corners of the school room in which the mural hangs.
Spears's mural also includes images of Linnés travels, friendships, and his historic meeting with the Swedish Queen Lovisa Ulrika in 1761. At that time, the queen granted the botanist a Swedish patent of nobility, after which he was known as Carl von Linné. Spears mural about a figure from Swedish history was designed especially for the Chicago schools Albany Park community, who were primarily of Scandinavian origin at the time of the murals 1944 dedication by the Linné Elementary Parents Association.
Artist: Datus Myers (1879-1960)
Title: Settlers and Indians
Medium: oil on canvas
Datus Myers completed this mural for Linné Elementary in 1910. WPA artists restored the canvas in 1937. This large horizontal mural in the schools main hallway depicts the amicable meeting of settlers and Native Americans. In the center, a tribal chief, dressed in an elaborate headdress and colorful clothing, greets an elder settler. Native-American and pioneer communities flank this scene. On the left, members of the tribe carry out daily activities such as basket weaving next to teepees in a wooded area. On the right, the settlers world is shown: domesticated animals, covered wagons, and pioneer families rest in a cleared landscape.
Myers suggests the peaceful coexistence of these two communities by including a pioneer mother and child in the Native-American environment and a young Indian woman with child in the settlers camp. The marked absence of weapons in the scene downplays more violent aspects of Westward expansion. Myers is best known for his paintings of the American West and his idealistic images of Native-American life. During the Great Depression, the artist was instrumental in organizing Native-American artists under the WPA. The American West was a popular theme in Progressive Era murals in Chicagos schools (see Daniel S. Wentworth Elementary School, Albert Lane Technical High School, and George W. Tilton Elementary School).
Related work in the Art Institute:
Martin Johnson Heade, Magnolias
Like Carl von Linné, Martin Johnson Heade took an interest in botany. He traveled as far as Brazil to study and paint flowers like these magnolias.