POETS AND WRITERS OF ANTIQUITY
Artist: Nicolai Remisoff (1887-1975)
Installed at LFL: May 1932
Dimensions: 8 sections, 7' x18'
Location in Library: rotunda
Commissioned by: Mrs. Stanley (Helen Shedd Reed) Keith and Mrs. Charles H. (Laura Shedd) Schweppe, in memory of Kersey Coates Reed
Artist biography/narrative description: Remisoff was born in St. Petersburg and was educated at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. He was art director for the 1939 film "Of Mice and Men," "Topper Returns" (1941), "The Red Pony" (1949), and "Apache" (1954), and enjoyed success as a stage designer (his style was dubbed "Russian Vogue"). He decorated the second floor Grand Salon of New York's Elizabeth Arden Red Door Salon & Spa in 1929 and painted circus stage scenes for a plaster balcony in the Woman's Athletic Club ballroom in Chicago which, according to Celia Hilliard, was replaced by a wrought iron balcony in the 1940s. Remisoff paintings and watercolors were exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago in February and March of 1938.
The eight panels of the Art Deco mural present a panorama of the classical heritage of literature. Each panel is "framed" by a pilaster, accenting the classical motif. Starting to the left of the Circulation desk, and moving counter-clockwise: Epic poet Homer is depicted with Pindar nearby (I). Sappho, lyric poet, is pictured next to Theocritus in a countryside setting (II). Greek dramatists Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Sophocles, and Euripides share a panel (III); note the masks of tragedy and comedy. Virgil, poet of Rome, appears in a panel with a waning moon, and according to Prof. Schulze, he is "mindful of unpleasant times coming" (IV). Cicero, the Roman orator, is accompanied by the statesman Seneca (V). A dove and olive branch adorn the warrior-like portrayal of the military writer, Xenophon; Aesop is in the foreground (VI). Diogenes is pictured with Aristotle, Socrates, and Plato (VII). The Greek mathematician, Pythagoras, is shown with the philosopher Thales, who holds a tablet bearing the Greek words for "know thyself."(VIII)
A 1932 article in the Evening American refers to the "Byzantine" features of the figures and exhorts, "Frankly, it is well worth a run to the swank North Shore village to see." The murals were cleaned and retouched in 1955-1956, and restored by the Chicago Conservation Center in 1997 (funded by Friends of Lake Forest Library, in honor of former Friends’ president Frank Kreuz).
Eleanor Gordon, "Art Deco" (North Shore, January/February 1980)
Mary Lackritz Gray and Franz Schulze, A Guide To Chicago's Murals (University of Chicago Press, 2001)
Celia Hilliard, The Woman's Athletic Club of Chicago, 1898-1998: A History (The Club, 1999)
Dan Rafter, "Over Six Decades of Grime Cleaned from Library Murals," Lake Forester (February 20, 1997)
Gai Saber, "Through the Eyes of Remisov" (Arts & Decoration, June 1922)
Franz Schulze, "Library Art Lecture" (video), filmed by Steve Laurila, City of Lake Forest, June 27, 1999
"'Slight' Changes 'Intrigue' the Chaperon" (Evening American, February 24, 1932)
USC Special Collections