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Dubuque Mural -- Children’s Classic Characters, by Edward W. Dubuque (1935)
Perhaps the largest set of murals created within the state during the decade [1930s] were the paintings conceived by Edward W. Dubuque for the old Children’s Room at the Providence Public Library. Notably, this work was completed under the auspices of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration and not the better known WPA.
Dubuque, a Pawtucket native whose studio at the time was on Hope Street, had had mural experience at the American School in Fountainbleau, and had also designed several murals in the United States before being selected for the library commission.
Dubuque conceived of the murals as expansive collections of characters from children’s literature, and the list of several dozen books that he consulted is still on file at the library. Among the well known characters he chose to illustrate are Pinocchio, Alice in Wonderland with the Cheshire Cat and the White Rabbit, Robinson Crusoe, Cinderella, and the Trojan Horse. The clouds, trees, and foliage add decorative, almost dream-like patterns as a backdrop for the main characters.
Dubuque sited the images high in the room, above the built-in bookcases and furniture, but made the individual figures large enough for even the smallest reader to see. While the area of the library with the Dubuque murals is no longer a public room, the works have been preserved in situ, that is, on the site for which they were originally intended.
Dubuque was assisted by his wife and Alfred E. James of Auburn in the execution of the paintings. Mrs. Dubuque remembers that her husband produced colored sketches for each of the sections of the mural but even though these were shown to Earl Rowe of the RISD museum, and to Clarence Sherman, the Librarian at the time, all final technical decisions were left up to the artist.
Dubuque went on to produce sets for the film company Metro Goldwyn Mayer, in their Long Island studio.
Measurements are Height x Length; Total area - approximately 273 square feet.
Panel 1, South Wall
Scene: Pinocchio, Alice in Wonderland, Humpty-Dumpty
Measures 90 x 140 inches
Panel 2, South Wall (with intake grate in middle)
Scene: Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn; Robinson Crusoe
Measures 90 x 133 inches (grate measures 27 x 38 inches)
Panel 3, South Wall (over the door)
Scene: Daniel Boone dreaming of bison (prairie); Little Women dreaming of their home
Measures 90 x 145 inches (door is 32 x 71 inches)
Panel 4, West Wall
Scene: Jungle Book; Treasure Island; Heidi
Measures 90 x 225 inches
Panel 5, West Wall
Scene: Cinderella, Greek Myths (centaur), Arabian Nights (Sheherezade)
Measures 90 x 236 inches.
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