Friday, November 24, 2006

Seeking a Larger Place in History

The following is from the pages of the Warwick Hotel website: Wanting to fulfill his true passion to become a muralist, Dean Cornwell went to London to study with Frank Brangwyn. Then, in 1927, Cornwell began his devotion to mural painting in California by painting beautiful murals in the Los Angeles Public Library and the Lincoln Memorial Shrine in Redlands. He went on to complete over 20 more well known murals at sites including the Detroit Athletic Club, Rockefeller Center, the 1939 World’s Fair, New York’s General Motors Building, the Bethlehem Steel Company, “The 21 Club” in New York and The Warwick Hotel. Paintings by Cornwell have also been exhibited in the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Chicago Art Institute, the National Academy of Design, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

Legend has it that William Randolph Hearst built the Warwick Hotel Apartments at 63 West 54th Street in New York City as a place where he could ensconce a mistress.Whether there's any truth to that or not, he did hire Dean Cornwell to paint a mural in the main dining room of The Raleigh Room, the Warwick's restaurant. My good friend Jeff Norwell owns one of Cornwell's original pencil drawings from this mural and has graciously agreed to share it with us today. It measures about 2 to 3 feet wide and about 4 feet tall. Jeff purchased it at The Illustration House and to the best of his knowledge it is the only surviving pencil drawing from the Warwick mural.
Here's another interesting tidbit: Jeff has heard from a knowledgable source that the guard in the back row on the extreme left was modelled by a young Charles Bronson.Again, from the pages of the Warwick Hotel website:
The history of the murals dates back to 1937, when William Randolph Hearst commissioned Dean Cornwell to paint murals in the main dining room of The Raleigh Room, the restaurant inside his Warwick New York apartment hotel. Cornwell completed the murals in 1938 and he received the sum of $100,000 for his work. The breathtaking murals depict Sir Walter Raleigh receiving his charter from Queen Elizabeth I in 1584 and Raleigh landing at Roanoke Island.The large mural depicts the Queen providing Raleigh with a charter and a patent granting him title to any lands he might discover in the name of the crown. After Raleigh returned from Roanake Island, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I.Upon completion of the murals, a dispute arose between Cornwell and Hearst regarding compensation for the work. Enraged and seeking revenge, Cornwell painted images, at the time considered obscene, onto the murals. Due to the controversy, one mural was covered for more than 40 years. The concealed mural included a man urinating on the Queen and another man urinating on Sir Walter Raleigh.Another pictured an Indian with bare buttocks. The dispute was eventually settled and Cornwell painted out one of the obscenities but the others remained.
* My thanks to René Milot for sharing his scans of the finished Warwick mural with me so I could post them alongside Jeff's Cornwell drawing. All of today's images can be viewed at a larger size in my Dean Cornwell Flickr set.

* Drop by the TI blog this weekend for a final post showcasing a variety of scans of Cornwell's work contributed by various TI list members.


  1. As per usual Leif..OUTSTANDING!

    A rabid fan


  2. Holy cow, even if I gave you pictures of my Cornwell drawings: I had never noticed that the drawing of the women: is Queen Elizabeth 1 for the Warcick Hotel murals! I've spent more time looking at the quality of Cornwell's drawing, that I always associated it with an historical painting, never did I compare it with the murals! Cool!

  3. Oh well, it's official: I just looked at the Cornwell drawing, flipped the frame around: and it the back: clearly says: head study of Queen Elizabeth 1 for the Warwick hotel murals!

  4. I love how he says the "models are soft these days" on that last set of "how-to" pages...hah!

    Great set of pieces guys, thanks for the addition to my collection.


  5. Thanks for your encouragement, guys! ;-)

  6. "Jeff has heard from a knowledgable source that the guard in the back row on the extreme left was modeled by a young Charles Bronson."

    I don't think so …at the time, Chuck was a teenage coal miner in Pennsylvania.