The eight grand murals adorning the walls of the Herbst Theatre
were painted by Frank Brangwyn as commissioned works for San
Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition
of 1915. The Exposition displayed the murals in the four corners
of the arcades within the Court of Ages (officially called
the Court of Abundance). Each set of two paintings represents
one of the classical elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water.
The first of the EARTH murals, The
Fruit Pickers depicts laborers gathering abundant orchard
crops. In its companion canvas, , people crush grapes and perform other
labors in a vineyard illuminated by dappled light.
Windmill, the first of the AIR illustrations, shows a
huge windmill towering over workers on a grain-covered slope
with rain-laden clouds behind. Wind whips the clothes of people
walking by while boys fly kites in the background. In the
accompanying AIR scene, The
Hunters, a group of archers stand in an autumn wood with
arrows nocked and ready while large white birds fly through
the treetops above them.
Net, representing WATER, fishermen stand on an iris covered
lakeshore hauling in their nets. Its companion, The
Fountain, shows men and women carrying water jars among
tall white water birds and flowers growing among the sedges.
The first FIRE canvas, , depicts several generations gathered around
a thin filament of smoke while men crouching before the unseen
fire blow into the flame. In Industrial
Fire pottery and shards are strewn at the feet of potters
who stoke a kiln fire as a thick pillar of smoke billows skyward.
of the Murals
Born in Belgium in 1867, Frank Brangwyn later moved to England
where he gained international recognition as a British mural
painter, book decorator and designer of stained glass windows.
Brangwyn was President of the Royal Society of British Artists,
and was a member of the Royal Academy of Milan, the Swedish
Royal Academy, the Munich Secession and the Association of
Brangwyn is represented in the permanent collections of museums
in Luxembourg, Venice, Munich, Prague, Barcelona, Chicago,
Sydney and Johannesburg. Other murals by Brangwyn have been
displayed in the London Royal Exchange, Skinner’s Hall,
Venice Exhibition, Lloyds Registry in London and private residences.