Iconic Steinberg ‘Mural of Cincinnati’ makes its CAM debut

Saul Steinberg’s “Mural of Cincinnati” © The Saul Steinberg Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The Cincinnati Art Museum’s Schmidlapp Gallery will soon open viewing of Saul Steinberg’s “Mural of Cincinnati” to the public.

Sponsored by the museum’s Founders Society in honor of its 30th anniversary, the mural will be on display long-term starting Feb. 16 for the first time since 1982.

The mural adorned the wall of the Terrace Plaza Hotel’s Skyline Restaurant beginning in the early 1940s. The mural was one of three commissions in the modernist space by Cincinnati businessman John J. Emery Jr.

Steinberg, a Romanian émigré artist, expanded his reputation as a respected artist after his success as a witty cartoonist for The New Yorker led to exhibitions at galleries and museums, and finally commissions for murals. The Cincinnati mural, his second, created a delightful atmosphere in its chic setting by including city landmarks – Tyler Davidson Fountain, the Roebling Suspension Bridge and the Mount Adams Incline – amid imaginary architecture and whimsical vignettes of urban entertainment.

When Thomas Emery’s Sons Inc. sold the hotel to the Hilton Corporation, Emery donated the three works of art to the Cincinnati Art Museum. In 2006, a Save America’s Treasures Grant funded the conservation of the Steinberg mural, restoring the balance between the delicate linear design and the white background. Steinberg’s “Mural of Cincinnati” will be reunited with the Terrace Plaza’s Miró mural and Calder mobile, both on view nearby in the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile Jr. Gallery.

The museum reopened the Schmidlapp Gallery in October, a transformation funded partially by a $1 million grant from the Jacob G. Schmidlapp Trusts, Fifth Third Bank, Trustee, and additional support from the State of Ohio. Installation of the Sternberg mural was sponsored by museum trustee Barbara Weyand and numerous donors who matched her gift.

In celebration of the mural’s installation, over 200 museum donors and supporters are expected for a private Schmidlapp Gallery Opening event in mid-February.

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