The Marshall Plan Mural

As early as 1963, the George C. Marshall Research Library had been negotiating with the National Academy of Design for a mural to be placed in the building as a contribution from the Abbey Mural Fund. Named after Edwin Austin Abbey, a renowned muralist who died in 1911, the Fund was established by Abbey’s widow, Mrs. Mary Gertrude Abbey, to make possible the awarding of mural commissions in buildings devoted to public service.

The Academy announced a contest held among six artists who were invited to submit sketches, and Henrik Martin Mayer (1908-1972), was chosen to execute the mural. Mayer earned his B.F.A. from the Yale School of Fine Art, and had been the first muralist to receive a Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project commission in Indiana. In 1956, Mayer became the Dean of the Art School at the University of Hartford in Connecticut and was also Director of the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford.

Mr. Mayer’s central theme for the mural was General Marshall’s 1947 speech at Harvard, and plans began in 1965 to have the mural dedicated during the twentieth anniversary year – 1967.

As plans began to firm in the spring of 1967, the National Academy of Design agreed to dedicate the mural on the same day as the release of a proposed Marshall stamp, October 24. Both Mr. Mayer and Mr. Edgar I Williams, former president of the National Academy of Design, were present at the ceremony.

The mural, completed by Mr. Mayer after a year’s work, is unusual in that it was painted on a single piece of Belgian linen in the artist’s studio in Essex, Connecticut. It was placed on the wall of the new museum room during the summer under the supervision of the artist.

(Unable to access the actual photographs at this time, these black and white images do not do the installation justice, and will be replaced by high-resolution once the originals can be scanned.)

Mayer and his assistants arrived in Lexington and began the installation.

Mayer and his assistants arrived in Lexington and began the installation.

 

Henrik Mayer is on the left.

Henrik Mayer is on the left.

 

Mayer stayed in Lexington for several months to touch up the mural.

Mayer stayed in Lexington for several months in order to touch up the mural.

 

In 1994, the museum room became the Forrest C. Pogue Auditorium.

The mural after installation. In 1994, the museum room became the Forrest C. Pogue Auditorium.

 

The mural is now the backdrop for events we have in the Pogue Auditorium.

The mural is now the backdrop for events and lectures.

 

Mayer explained that, while the central figure looks like General Marshall, it is not meant to be a portrait. It is the picture of a Statesman.

Mayer explained that, while the central figure looks like General Marshall, it is not meant to be a portrait. It is the picture of a Statesman.

 

He is holding a document which symbolizes the Marshall Plan.

He is holding a document which symbolizes the Marshall Plan.

 

The military group to the left of the central figure represents those critical to winning World War II.

To the left General Marshall is shown in his role as a global strategist.

In Mayer’s words, his painting “deals with the spirit of General Marshall’s as a soldier and statesman, who with wisdom and foresight saw the deplorable condition of preparedness of the United States prior to Pearl Harbor, and by his leadership brought the United States from its unprepared state to one capable of contending with the global situation.” The central portion of the mural carries out this theme.

The people with swords and shields illustrate the army that General Marshall took over in 1939, and those marching off to war with helmets and rifles represent the new, well-equipped army.

The people with swords and shields illustrate the army that General Marshall took over in 1939, and those marching off to war with helmets and rifles represent the new, well-equipped army.

 

Swords and shields have now been replaced by firearms.

Swords and shields have now been replaced by firearms.

 

The flames represent World War II.

The flames represent World War II…

 

...and the doves represent peace.

…and the doves represent peace.

 

Marshall's service as a great humanitarian and author of the Marshall Plan is symbolically depicted on the right by a Europe rising from the destruction of war.

Marshall’s service as a great humanitarian and author of the Marshall Plan is symbolically depicted on the right by a Europe rising from the destruction of war.

 

The mural is signed by the artist.

The mural is signed by the artist.

 

Marshall Plan Mural

Many visitors think the mural is a decal or printed, but it is an original work of art.