The Boston Public
between 1887--1895) was designed by Charles McKim of McKim, Mead and
White, Architects. Intended to be clearly derived from the Italian
palazzo -- square with a central open court, it evoked the principles
the Ecole des Beaux-Arts coming from the foundation of Classical and
understanding and not necessarily a copy of any one particular
Built from public
money and decorated
from private funds with classical themes, it was
to "hold its own," according to Samuel A.B. Abbott, the president of
Library Trustees, "beside any of the great works of the great
of the Renaissance." 
It would become one
of the first
personifications of stone and mortar (on a permanent basis and of such
a scale) for the men of the City Beautiful Moment.
& 2nd floor plan of the Library
McKim, Mead and White, architects
murals would be on a 3rd floor not shown)
By 1890, with the
fully underway, they turned their attention to its decoration. Charles
McKim would meet with the sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and painters
Edwin Austin Abbey and John Singer Sargent. Afterward, McKim would
to the Library trustees to get their approval.
would be three
major mural projects. Abbey would paint "The Quest of the Holy
decorating the main Book
room. Puvis de Chavannes would paint "The Muses of Inspiration
Hail the Spirit," adorning the walls of the building's grand front
staircase in eight stairway murals representing disciplines of
philosophy, and science; and "The Barbinger of Light,"
the second floor gallery.
Sargent would paint "The History of
which would decorate the the third floor hallway and what is now called
well before, the
first installation of murals in 1895 would come on the heels of the World
Columbian Exposition of Chicago of 1893; and in the public's eye,
Library stood as a continuation of the American Renaissance displayed
its ideal during the Worlds Fair.
After the '95
with the expanded project for Sargent's portion, John would lease space
for a second studio on Fulham Road, in London.
Road Studio, London
By 1919, the project
After the 1916 installation, which was the largest, Sargent
gave a full explanation of the murals' meaning.
1) S.A.B. Abbott to
Charles F. McKim,
November 28, 1889, McKim Collection, The Library of Congress,