New York, New York
|Education||Manhattanville College, Art Students League of New York, California School of Fine Arts, San Francisco, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, New York School of Applied Design for Women, and the Beaux Arts Institute of Design|
|Known for||Muralist, Painting, Architectural Design, Mosaic|
Hildreth Meière (1892–1961) was an American artist and designer active in the first half of the twentieth century, especially in connection with Art Deco architecture. Among her extensive works are the dynamic roundels of Dance, Drama, and Song at Radio City Music Hall, the Creation cycle and stained-glass windows at St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church (Manhattan), the iconographic suites at the Nebraska State Capitol, and the National Academy of Sciences.
Hildreth Meière was born in New York City in 1892. After studying at New York's Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart, Meiere studied in Florence. Upon studying the works of the Renaissance Masters, she is quoted as saying, "After that I could not be satisfied with anything less than a big wall to paint on. I just had to be a mural painter."
She furthered her studies at the Art Students League of New York, California School of Fine Arts, San Francisco (now San Francisco Art Institute), the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, New York School of Applied Design for Women and the Beaux Arts Institute of Design. After training as a mapmaker, Meière served her country as a draftsman in the U.S. Navy with the rating of Yeoman (F) during World War I.
Finding work in a male-dominated field was difficult for her, so she began her career as a costume designer for theater actresses, a field more common for women at the time. In 1923 she was commissioned to decorate the dome of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. by architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue. Meiere and sculptor Lee Lawrie became members of the loose "repertory company" of artists assembled by Goodhue, and she came to work on many different projects with him. One of these, the Nebraska State Capitol in Lincoln, which she began before the NAS dome was even completed, became her pièce de résistance featuring eight separate examples of her work.
During Meiere's successful career, spanning 30 years and working on over 100 commissions, she became well known for contributing well-integrated public art mosaics to many landmark buildings and is most closely associated with the Art Deco movement. Some of Meiere's best work is visible throughout her hometown of Manhattan, although reportedly she was proudest of her work on the Nebraska State Capitol.
When World War II broke out, Meiere served on the Citizen's Committee for the Army and Navy, providing portable altar pieces for military chaplains. This campaign created over 500 mobile 4 ft × 6 ft (1.2 m × 1.8 m) triptychs, 70 of her own design which could be used on base-camps, battleships, and hospitals worldwide. She taught first aid for the Red Cross after the US entered World War II.
Asked how to say her name, she told The Literary Digest (which spelled the name Meière) "It is of French origin and I pronounce it mee-AIR. My father's family anglicized the pronunciation to meer, but I have always used the more proper form."
In Meiere's autobiography, she states, "Having begun at the top with the National Academy of Sciences and the Nebraska State Capitol, the long list of commissions, well over a hundred, have come of themselves. For the past thirty-five years I have maintained a large studio and have supported myself by my work. . . . I have [also] been active in professional organizations, believing that we owe some of our time and energies to them."
Her artistic merit was well recognised by her peers, but what makes her career most notable was the pioneering influence she had as a woman in a time where men dominated every profession. She was the first woman ever appointed to the New York City Art Commission, and she came to found the Liturgical Arts Society in her 57th Street studio in New York, serving as the organization's first president. She served four terms as President of the National Society of Mural Painters; six terms as First Vice President of the Architectural League of New York; Director of the Municipal Art Society; Director of the Department of Mural Painting at the Beaux Arts Institute of Design; member of the Architectural Guild of America; and a board member of the Art Students League, the Municipal Arts Society, the School Art League, and the Advisory Committee of the Cooper Union Art School, all in New York.
Her first major award came in recognition for one of her first major projects. In 1928, a full six years before the Architectural League of New York admitted female members, the organisation awarded Meiere with a gold medal in Mural Decoration for her work at the Nebraska State Capitol.
The U.S. War Department gave her an award for the work she did with the Citizens Committee for the Army and Navy during World War II. In 1956, she became the first woman to win the Fine Arts Medal of the American Institute of Architects. Manhattanville College, Meiere's alma mater, presented her with an honorary doctorate in 1953, and in 1959 the school presented here with a distinguished service award.