The Capitol Dome

Winter 2015-16

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 4 of 43

3 ning the first series of murals in 1969, although Congress did not authorize the project until 1971. Painting began in 1973; its conclusion twenty years later thus also honored the 1993 bicen- tennial that marked George Washington's laying of the Capitol cornerstone in 1793 (figs. 3a, 3b). Initiated by the Historical Society, the planning and execution of the murals was a col- laborative effort that required the support and input of many additional individuals and organizations, including the Daughters of the American Revolution, who funded the second corridor, "e Great Experiment Hall;" George White, former architect of the Capitol; the Architect of the Capitol curators and other staff members; the Joint Committee on the Library responsible for overseeing works of art in the Capitol; House and Senate leadership ; and many others. The painting of the murals would occupy artist Allyn Cox (1896-1982) from the early 1970s until his death in the fall of 1982, only a few days after the completion of " The Great Experiment Hall" and his attendance at a National Statuary Hall ceremony held in his honor by House and Senate leaders (fig. 2). Although Cox worked in other areas of the Capitol over a thirty-year span, it is his House murals, known collectively as the Cox Corridors, that are at the heart of his artistic legacy. ALLYN COX AT THE CAPITOL Allyn Cox was, in fact, one of very few painters to undertake a major mural campaign at the U.S. Capitol. The first was Constantino Brumidi (1805-1880), the Italian-born and classi- cally-trained artist who devoted the majority of his career to the decoration of the Senate hallways now known as the "Brumidi Corridors," the monumental Apotheosis of Washington located in the eye of the inner dome in the Rotunda, the Frieze of American History below the dome (fig. 4), and many committee rooms and other spaces throughout the building. 3 At the time of Brumidi's death in 1880, the Frieze of American History was unfinished. His assistant, Filippo Costaggini, completed eight more scenes from Brumidi's sketches, but a large gap remained due to miscalculations regarding the height of the frieze. Allyn Cox finally completed this project in the early 1950s, and so began his long association with the Capitol, a building he described as "more friendly than awe-inspiring, more like a warm home than a monument." 4 Like the rest of Brumidi's work at the Capitol, the Frieze of American History was painted in true, or buon, fresco, a tech- nically demanding medium in which paint is applied directly to wet plaster and bonds chemically with the wall surface as it cures. By the 1950s, many traditional art forms and styles were displaced by abstraction and other twentieth-century modern- isms, so there were fewer artists trained in either fresco or aca- demic mural painting in general, making Cox an obvious choice to complete the frieze. 5 e son of American muralist Kenyon Cox, Allyn attended the National Academy of Design and Art Students League in New York and worked as an assistant to his father before being awarded a fellowship to study at the Ameri- Fig. 1. John Trumbull, Signing of the Declaration of Independence (1818; installed 1826) ARCHITECT OF THE CAPITOL

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Capitol Dome - Winter 2015-16