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March 7: The Muralist of Los Angeles

March 7, 2016

warnermuralheaderHugo Ballin, a filmmaker of the silent era and a Beaux-Artes-style muralist whose work graces such Los Angeles landmarks as the Griffith Observatory, Wilshire Boulevard Temple, and Burbank City Hall, was born in New York on this date in 1879. He studied at the Art Students League of New York and had his first major commission when he painted twenty-six murals the Wisconsin State Capitol in 1906. In 1917 he became an art director for the Samuel Goldwyn Studios, then founded his own film studio, but left the industry and returned to painting when talkies took over. He created: “The March of Science through the Ages” series for the Griffith Observatory; the “Four Freedoms” for the Burbank City Hall; and an epic history of the Jewish people from Genesis to 1929, commissioned by the Warner brothers, for the Wilshire Boulevard Temple. Ballin died at 79 in 1956 and was buried in Woodlawn Memorial Cemetery, Santa Monica, the site of one of his last commissions, a set of frescoes depicting the life and death of Jesus Christ.

“Even a great painting is seen only by about 60,000 people in a year, and the same number see a good motion picture in one hour.” —Hugo Ballin