Health and the Arts Murals by Arthur F. Mathews
When the library building was built early in the 20th century, three murals for the reading room were commissioned from Arthur Mathews, the renowned muralist and painter. Mathews was a prominent and influential artist in San Francisco from the 1890s through the 1920s, and the premier muralist. Read more about
Arthur F. Mathews.
The murals, collectively titled Health and the Arts, fill three arches on the east side of the reading room at the Health Sciences Library. They depict different attitudes through history towards health, the practice of medicine, and its integration with the balance of mind and body through the Arts.
A contemporary description of the murals from the report on the dedication of the Lane Medical Library Building, November 3, 1912, contributed by Professor Ray Lyman Wilbur, Executive Head of the Department of Medicine of Stanford University, in an appendix of the Trustees' Series report No. 22:
"The general reading room, with its open shelves of reference volumes, its broad reading tables and its quiet green walls, is particularly fortunate. To this room is added beauty and dignity, also, by the mural paintings from the brush of Arthur F. Mathews, of San Francisco. These pictures are the gift of Mrs. Henrietta Zeile [a prominent art patron of the period]. They occupy three large panels on the east side of the Reading Room, adding a fine touch of color to the somewhat somber green wall."
"One shows beneath a spreading oak an Indian medicine man- the primitive art of healing. Another is a mediaeval towered city with a red robed doctor reassuring a group of frightened people who cower before a woman with the "evil eye". In the central panel Urania, in starry blue kneels, with her hand upon a sphere, Terpsichore with dancing girls embroidered on her cloak, ivy-crowned Thalia, dark draped Melpomene and their sister muses surround a white clad woman, Hygeia, and a child."
"The work is in Mathews' best style, the flesh tones of the life size figures wonderful, the landscapes beautiful with purple shadows, rolling hills and sunlit clouds."
The mural on the left is an 8'x12' panel showing a Native American healer.
The center panel, 8'x8' depicts the nine Greek Muses along with Hygeia, goddess of health, and a very young Apollo, the god of medicine and leader of the Muses.
On the right is an 8'x12' panel depicting a Medieval city (Italian) with a doctor in a red robe attending to a group of people in a public square.