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RKO Center Theatre

New York, NY

Relief sculpture on 49th Street facade

Radio and Television Encompassing the Earth, 1932

Commissioned by: Associated ArchitectsMedium: mixed metal and enamelExecuted by: Oscar B. BachNonextant

49th Street facade of RKO Center Theatre with Radio and Television Encompassing the Earth, © Museum of the City of New York/Art Resource, NY

49th Street facade of RKO Center Theatre with Radio and Television Encompassing the Earth, © Museum of the City of New York/Art Resource, NY

For the 49th Street facade of the RKO Center Theatre (razed in 1954), Hildreth Meière depicted Radio and Television Encompassing the Earth, a sculpture measuring 18 x 35 feet. As he had done with Meière’s Dance, Drama and Song on the facade of Radio City Music Hall, Oscar B. Bach fabricated her design in mixed metal and enamel. Bach “beat them into shape in the manner of a silversmith.”1 He then added vitreous enamel colors to the figures by grinding fragments of colored glass into powder, mixing the powder with water, and applying the mixture evenly to the metal surface. During the firing that followed, the particles of glass powder fused to form a thin, colored glaze of glass enamel that adhered to the metal surface.2

All that remains of the original commission are Meière’s sketches and a photograph showing her design on the theater’s facade.3

Radio and Television Encompassing the Earth, to-scale study in gouache on cartoon paper

Radio and Television Encompassing the Earth, to-scale study in gouache on cartoon paper

Radio and Television Encompassing the Earth on the 49th Street facade of the RKO Center Theatre, 1932

Radio and Television Encompassing the Earth on the 49th Street facade of the RKO Center Theatre, 1932

In 1988, sculptor Gary Sussman, using a different technique from Bach, created a sculpture based on one of Meière’s watercolor studies for Radio and Television Encompassing the Earth. His cast bas relief can be seen in the west concourse of Rockefeller Center at the subway access level:

Cast bas-relief sculpture by Gary Sussman based on Meière

Cast bas-relief sculpture by Gary Sussman based on Meière's watercolor sketch

1

New York Herald Tribune, Sunday November 13, 1932, Real Estate Section.

2

Eugene Clute, “The Story of Rockefeller Center: The Allied Arts,” Architectural Forum 57: 4 (October 1932): 357. See also Brawer, Walls Speak: The Narrative Art of Hildreth Meière (St. Bonaventure, New York: St. Bonaventure University, 2009): 64-68.

3

See Catherine Coleman Brawer and Kathleen Murphy Skolnik, The Art Deco Murals of Hildreth Meière (New York: Andrea Monfried Editions, 2014): 158-60 and Brawer, Walls Speak, The Narrative Art of Hildreth Meière (St. Bonaventure, New York: St. Bonaventure University, 2009): 69.