M.I.T. Exhibition Stirs Boston

M.I.T. Exhibition 'Stirs' Boston

Preliminary sketch for Grecian Festival
Preliminary sketch for Grecian Festival
Sermon on the Mount, a painting by Juglaris
Sermon on the Mount, a painting by Juglaris exhibited at the 1893 Chicago World Columbian Exposition

Although Juglaris returned to Italy in 1891, he exhibited a painting, Sermon on the Mount, at the 1893 Chicago World Columbian Exposition. The painting depicts contemporary Italian working men and women listening to a sermon being delivered by a priest from an open air platform. Yet signaling that Juglaris was no longer an immigrant artist, the painting was exhibited at the Italian Pavilion, rather than any of the major halls of the World’s Fair where the work of American artists was on display. It was a full decade before Juglaris’s work was once again exhibited in the United States.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Bay Back Boston, hosted Juglaris’ 1902 exhibition

That next and last major showing of Juglaris’s work occurred in October 1902. It offered a preview of his vast mural commission for the Franklin Public Library outside Boston, entitled Grecian Festival. Ready for display were massive preliminary mural designs that Juglaris had completed the previous summer at Henry Hammond Gallison’s Annisquam, Massachusetts studio. In need of an exhibition space large enough to accommodate the full scope of his ambitious mural project, Juglaris chose the newly-opened Augustus Lowell Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) in Back Bay Boston, down the street from the Grundmann Studios where artists more commonly presented their work. As a Boston art critic explained the remarkable set-up:

Massachusetts studio where Juglaris spent summers
Henry Hammond Gallison's Annisquam, Massachusetts studio where Juglaris spent summers

“As a Boston art critic explained the remarkable set-up in an article entitled “The Juglaris Decoration,” preserved by the artist in his album of press clippings: “In magnitude and conception this is one of the most ambitious decorations yet undertaken in this country… It is difficult to find a suitable exhibition place anywhere for canvases of such dimensions—their total length running to considerably more than 800 feet. But the spacious hall formed by the workshop of the laboratory, with its good lighting from above, offers a fair place for the purpose. Here a large quadrangle has been formed by hanging the canvases on a temporary framework, making a large room of nearly the same dimensions as the [Franklin Public Library] reading room itself. Within this quadrangle the decoration is shown. The space could not be made to correspond exactly with that of the library; hence, as here displayed, the panels pass around the corners.”

The canvas panels unveiled at the Augustus Lowell Laboratory featured in well-drawn silhouette the full panoply of scenes that Juglaris intended to incorporate in his reading room mural cycle. Some color studies may also have been presented. Left blank and unpainted were canvas spaces where large reading room doorways and a fireplace would intrude upon the final mural installation. In the eyes of one reviewer, Juglaris’s goal was to share “his conception of the subject in motive, color, harmony and composition.”

Acropolis, a preparatory sketch
Acropolis, a preparatory sketch for Grecian Festival by Juglaris

Admission tickets were issued to members of the public interested in viewing Juglaris’s work in progress. Boston newspapers enthusiastically covered the showing. One article, headlined “Artist’s Strange Work Stirs Boston,” reported that “the painting is expected to create a sensation when it is placed on exhibition in [Boston] and New York. Juglaris was identified as “probably the best living figure painter today.” The whole Franklin Public Library project was deemed one of the “most remarkable things this country has ever known.” Adding to the excitement over Juglaris’s murals was his choice of subject matter. Instead of offering an American-themed historical tableau, Juglaris presented an imagined classical panorama with pastoral, Arcadian elements—the kind of scene enjoying considerable vogue among many European artists at the turn of the twentieth century.

It is not known whether Juglaris’s preliminary designs for the Franklin Public Library murals were ever exhibited in New York as originally planned. However, two years later Juglaris’s Grecian Festival was installed at the Franklin Public Library. Since their official unveiling and dedication in 1904 the mural cycle has been on view at the Franklin Public library—a permanent exhibition of Juglaris’s talent.