Chavannes Gallery Murals: The Muses of Inspiration Hail the Spirit, the Messenger of Light by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes
French artist Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1824-1898) was regarded as one of the best muralists of the 19th century, with works installed at the Sorbonne, the Hotel de Ville, and the Pantheon in Paris. The Boston Public Library Trustees went against their original goal of highlighting American artists and craftsmen in the 1895 McKim Building, seeking the commission from Puvis given his high reputation. The Trustees contracted Puvis in May 1895, and a contract for the work was signed on July 7th of that year offering payment of 250,000 francs (approximately $50,000) over installments, a sum several times what Puvis had been paid for similar works. As the aging artist was reluctant to travel the great distance to Boston, library architect Charles Follen McKim sent him a sample of the yellow Siena marble used in the staircase area, along with photographs and precise dimensions of each panel enclosure. Puvis completed the works in his large studio in Neuilly, Paris, France, and after exhibiting the works in Paris shipped the panels to Boston for final installation in 1895-96 under the watch of the artist's assistants.

The long panel adjacent to Bates Hall depicts The Muses of Inspiration, while the panels surrounding the staircase depict "four great expressions of the human mind" in eight parts: Philosophy, Astronomy, History, Chemistry, Physics, Pastoral Poetry, Dramatic Poetry, and Epic Poetry. The installation of this, Puvis' only mural work outside of France, was completed in 1896.

The photography of these items has been made possible through the generous support of the Associates of the Boston Public Library.

For more information please contact:
Exhibitions and Programming Department
McKim Building
Boston Public Library
700 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02116
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