The Orozco Frescoes at Dartmouth

The Orozco Frescoes at Dartmouth

The Orozco Frescoes at Dartmouth

The Orozco Frescoes at Dartmouth

Excerpt

When the artist, with his concluding brush strokes, painted into the wet plaster of his last completed panel in the east wing of the large basement room of the Baker Library the signature "J. C. Orozco--Febrero 13, 1934", he marked the end of two years' creative labor and the completion of a series of murals which were to be greeted as a notable contribution to mural art in this country and which compose, quantitatively, the largest fresco project yet executed in the United States.

At a testimonial dinner tendered to the artist a few evenings later, the spokesman of the undergraduates presented to him the gratitude of the College community for the privilege of witnessing over two years the creation of this vast work of art; a message from President Hopkins extended the appreciation of the College to the artist and expressed the pleasure of the community in its association with him during his residence; artists and critics who had come to Hanover for the event congratulated the artist on the completion of his greatest frescoes and felicitated Dartmouth on her good fortune in enlisting the creative artistry of Orozco, her vision in desiring to enlist this artistry, and her courage in giving it free reign; and the chairman of the department of art pictured the occasion as "the end of a beginning" in two senses--the completion of the frescoes marking their beginning as a finished work of art, and Orozco's completed work possibly representing the first of a sequence of visits of great muralists, giving the privilege to succeeding Dartmouth generations to witness the enrichment of Dartmouth walls with living works of art.

José Clemente Orozco made his first appearance at Dartmouth May 2, 1932, as a teacher. His appointment was as a visiting lecturer in the department of art, and his commission was to demonstrate to students the ancient, difficult, and--more than any other technique of painting--lasting art of painting in true fresco. In performing this commission, Orozco demonstrated to Dartmouth students, in the corridor connecting the Baker Library with the Carpenter Art Building, the technique with which Michelangelo in the 16th century brushed unfading earth pigments into the wet plaster of the Sistine Chapel, the color penetrating into the walls and, as the plaster hardened, becoming in its fresh lustre as lasting as the structure itself. Taking as a theme the escape from the destructive uses of machinery, Orozco painted into the end wall of this corridor the small fresco that has been entitled "Release".

In May, 1932, many were interested and some were excited at this opportunity to watch a master of fresco at work at Dartmouth. But this first interest and excitement became of . . .

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