[From the catalogue-in-progress for “Landscapes & Livestock”, a loan exhibition for Agincourt Homecoming in the Fall of 2015]
GAMMELL, Robert Hale Ives (1893-1981)
“Study of Design” / “Allegorical Design for a Garden of Proserpine”
oil on paper / 26 inches by 10.5 inches
Northwest Iowa Normal College began auspiciously with the first presidency of Dr Wilhelm A.K.E. Reinhardt, who built a teaching staff and guided the physical plant which would form the core of today’s campus. The theatre/auditorium—now named to honor President Reinhardt—was among the first buildings to be erected, even before Reinhardt’s arrival. Its subsequent decorative scheme, however, appears to have been a special labor for him.
The theatre lobby is populated with a host of staid and stolid characters drawn (as might be expected for a European institution) from Classical mythology. Flanking the three sets of doors into the auditorium itself are four eight-foot-tall vertical panels, each an allusion to Greece and Rome. At the far left is one titled “The Garden of Proserpine,” a minor goddess based on Persephone, Ceres, and other divinities linked to agriculture and abundance. This and the other murals were painted by Boston artist R. H. Ives Gammell, a student at the School of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the École des Beaux Arts and its Académie Julian, and later renowned for his allegorical paintings. A useful comparison can be made with the slightly earlier posters and murals of Glaswegian Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh (1864-1933).
Our study of “Proserpine” was found in a janitor’s closet several years ago and given to the Community Collection.