Ernest Peixotto

Ernest Peixotto (1869-1940)

Ernest Peixotto
(1869-1940)

Hildreth Meière (1892-1961), 1956

Hildreth Meière
(1892-1961), 1956

Ernest Peixotto was director of the Department of Mural Painting at the Beaux-Arts Institute in Manhattan in 1919 when Meière tried to matriculate. She learned, however, that women were not permitted to enroll at the Institute. Instead she became a student at the School of Applied Design for Women. Female students at the school were still able to compete in Beaux-Arts projects critiqued by prominent architects.

In a report about Meière as a student in 1920, Peixotto wrote:

. . . Miss Hildreth Meière has gained first and second medals almost every time that she has submitted sketches and the juries have specially commended her work for its sincerity and knowledge.1

When Meière received her first major architectural commission from Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, she turned to Peixotto for advice.2 While she was working on the Great Hall at the National Academy of Sciences, Peixotto invited her to a party at his home and proudly introduced her to the muralists and architects present:

The first person introduced to me was [the muralist] Allyn Cox. . . he’d been on the juries and said he know my work well--and had always voted for it. . . then Mr. Peixotto hauled me up to Cass Gilbert--who is one of the architects--did the Woolworth Building. Peixotto gave me such an introduction as would have made you “swell visibly”--and Cass Gilbert agreed with him that I’ve done extraordinarily well for myself. It’s hard to repeat compliments and not give the impression of a swelled head--but it’s only fair to you to say that I have made good. . . and as Allyn Cox says--it’s landing the first big job that’s hard.3

Ironically, in 1936, Meière succeeded Peixotto as director of the mural department at the Beaux-Arts Institute, a position that she held for five years. She also succeeded him as president of the National Society of Mural Painters that same year. Meière served a second term as president of the National Society of Mural Painters from 1946-49, this time succeeding the muralist Allyn Cox, who completed two of Meière’s designs for the clerestory windows at St. Bartholomew’s Church after her death.

Ernest Peixotto and Hildreth Meière at an event in New York City

Ernest Peixotto and Hildreth Meière at an event in New York City

Meière worked again with Peixotto at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, where he was mural consultant responsible for supervising the sculptors and muralists.

1

Hildreth Meière, letter to mother, January 6, 1920, Hildreth Meière Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

2

See Catherine Coleman Brawer and Kathleen Murphy Skolnik, The Art Deco Murals of Hildreth Meière (New York: Andrea Monfried Editions, 2014) for a full discussion of Meière’s relationship with Peixotto.

3

Meière, letter to mother, December 2, 1923, HM Papers.

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