Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue

Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue (1869-1924)

Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue
(1869-1924)

Hildreth Meière (1892-1961), 1956

Hildreth Meière
(1892-1961), 1956

Hildreth Meière was twenty-nine years old in 1922 when architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue asked her to design preliminary sketches for the interior of his Nebraska State Capitol in Lincoln.1 Knowing that the job would not begin for a few years, he also commissioned Meière to decorate the Great Hall of his National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C.

Meière appreciated Goodhue’s courage in selecting a well-trained but inexperienced muralist to decorate the Great Hall:

When you consider that architectural experiments usually involve a large amount of money, the courage required is not just a figure of speech, and an architect who turned over such an experiment—a dome sixty-five feet high—to a young woman of large ambitions and sound training but no prior experience, undoubtedly had courage in its very highest form.2

She readily acknowledged her debt to Goodhue in launching her career:

The opportunity to work for the Nebraska Capitol is the sort of thing that doesn’t come more than once in an artist’s lifetime, and then only if he’s lucky. It was a new type of architecture, and it meant really creative work as well as pioneering in materials. Bertram Goodhue believed that the great building would result from the architect who had found the right sculptor and the right painter. He had his sculptor in Lee Lawrie, but he had no regular painter, and he said to me when I first worked for him, “I’ve been looking for you for years.” I only did three jobs for him, but the association with him and his ideas were a determining factor in my work and career.3

Goodhue died in 1924, shortly before the dedication of the National Academy of Sciences. Meière continued to work with his successor firm, Bertram Goodhue Associates, both on projects that Goodhue had started and new projects that the firm brought to Meière. Once the work that Goodhue himself had designed had been completed, Goodhue’s widow, Lydia Goodhue, asked that his name be removed from that of the firm. In 1929 Bertram Goodhue Associates became Mayers, Murray & Phillip. The partnership of Goodhue’s former associates Francis Mayers, Oscar Murray and Hardie Phillip continued until 1940.4

1

See Romy Wyllie, Bertram Goodhue: His Life and Residential Architecture (New York: W. W. Norton, 2007) for an in-depth discussion of Goodhue and selected bibliography.

2

Hildreth Meière, “Distinguished Artist Comes Home for Visit: Miss Hildreth Meière Tells of the Interesting Work in which She Is Engaged,” Women’s City Club Magazine (San Francisco) 1:2 (March 1927): 9.

3

Meière, letter to Mr. Thompson (probably a reporter), May 23, 1936, Hildreth Meière Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

4

See Wyllie, 175.