800 East Gun Hill Road

James Michael Newell
The Development of
Western Civilization
, ca. 1938
9 fresco murals,
48" x 96" to 168" x 264"
Board of Education / WPA / FAP


James Michael Newell's mural, The Development of Western Civilization, a WPA Federal Art Project painting, was presented to Evander Childs High School in the Bronx at the school's silver jubilee ceremony in 1938. Done in fresco, the nine panels are an excellent example of the influence of the Mexican painter Diego Rivera on the work of American muralists of the 1930s and the continued inspiration of the poet Walt Whitman. The center panel over the door illustrates the forces of enlightenment, the extension of human horizons and the destruction of serfdom. The Western point of view is indicated by the emphasis on the individual as the reason for development of man's latter day inventive and creative powers. The end panel on the east wall is the heritage of America. Pictures of Norsemen, Spaniards, the Dutch and the English symbolize the contributions of these nations. America's varied, dynamic and powerful civilization is depicted on the west wall. Over the center door a quotation from Walt Whitman's With Antecedents stands out against a background of broken chains and a book, the symbol of knowledge and freedom for all. The mural won the gold medal award at the Architectural League's fiftieth annual exhibition.

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