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"Early California to 1800" [East Wall]

The Venice High School Library, located on the second floor of the Administration Building, faces Venice Blvd. and the Myrna Loy statue. We encourage all to view our historic murals painted by WPA artists led by Helen Lundeberg in 1940-1941. The two 12-by-35 foot panels are located on each end of the library.


The two large murals in the Venice High School Library, on opposite ends of the room, depict Southern California historical scenes. The story on the east wall begins with the earliest days of indigenous people and runs through 1799.  Continuing in chronological order, the west wall’s vignettes depict significant events from 1800 through the early 1900’s. 

Library Murals

Mural East

Mural West
 "Southern California 1800 On" [West Wall]



Helen Lundeberg led this project, approved and funded by the WPA Federal Art Project (Works Project Administration).  Work began in May 1940 with Grace Clements assisting Lundeberg with research, design and painting. They were then joined by five other artists, Edwin Emery, Miriam Farrington, Auriel Leitner, Elizabeth Mills, and Syrena Swanson.  Painting directly on the 12-by-35 foot plaster walls, the team of artists outlined the scenes, and then filled the forms with soft colors.  The WPA mural project completed on January 14, 1941.

WPA Mural

[Painting the WPA murals at Venice High School Library east wall, 1940-1941]


On Murals "…and so were some murals in the Venice High School library. I don't know if they still exist or not. I haven't heard that they don't. Oh, we called it a vignette style. See, they had acoustic plaster, the walls, and you don't want to cover that over with canvas; you spoil the acoustic properties of the wall. So the wall would be tinted a pinkish beige, or it was a pale neutral green at the Venice library. And the artist designed for that wall, incorporating the wall color. What the mural was was little vignettes. Oh, it was a historical subject, you know, California history, California — I don't remember what its special angle was. But I know there were Indians in it, and there was a little — what? — maybe trains, boats, people, God knows what, included in the subject matter. But it was done with line and tone, and the light in the modeling was supplied by the wall color. So the whole thing had a very open, airy sort of effect. It didn't have the heaviness of the conventional mural. It was done in oil paint, but on this acoustic wall. And the effect was quite nice. It was a nice decorative sort of way of doing a mural…" Helen Lundeberg, interviewed by Fidel Danieli for Center for Oral History Research, University of California, Los Angeles, June 4, 1974, Tape Number I, Side 2  [April 10. 2018]


Further Reading:

Colker, David. "Sunset as a Quality of Light, Not Life: A Show of Helen Lundeberg's Works from the 1980's." Los Angeles Times [Los Angeles, CA], 05 Apr 1992, Web.  [April 9, 2018]

Haithman, Diane. "Helen Lundeberg; Artist, Pioneer of the New Classicism Movement." Los AngelesTimes [Los Angeles, CA]. 21 Apr 1999: Web. [April 9, 2018] – obituary

Lundeberg, Helen. Oral History Collection-Los Angeles Art Community-Group Portrait. Center for Oral History Research. UCLA Library.,%20Helen [April 9, 2018] – interview

Muchnic, Suzanne. Helen Lundeberg: Poetry Space Silence, Louis Stern Fine Arts, Feitelson/Lundeberg Art Foundation, 2014. Venice High School, p.59, 64, 66, 198,207 [April 9, 2018]

Pleasure, Thomas. "Venice: Uncovering a Hidden Treasure." Los Angeles Times [Los Angeles, CA] 24 July 1994, Web. [April 9, 2018]