Radio City Music Hall (1932)Hildreth Meière Dunn
Architect Biographies

Meière, Hildreth

1892–1961

“You cannot maintain your career in an ivory tower and expect to succeed. You must get out there and work with the others.”
St. Anthony Messenger,  April 1944

Art Through Architecture

Hildreth Meière was not an architect, but a talented artist who imbued the architecture she touched with astonishing beauty. A year abroad following high school was her inspiration:

“We went to Italy, and the glories of the Renaissance opened before my hungry eyes, and I fell in love, once and for all, with mural painting and great beautiful walls.”

Architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue gave Meière her first two major commissions: the Great Hall of his National Academy of Sciences in Washington DC and the interior of his Nebraska State Capitol in Lincoln. Although she worked with him for only a short time before his death in 1924, his eclectic style and collaborative approach to design had a lasting influence on her. Meière saw her role as embellishing a building with designs that were integral to the architecture, conveying the building’s purpose.

In 1929, Meière received her first corporate commission: the banking hall floor of the Baltimore Trust Company Building for Taylor & Fisher Architects. Her marble floor panels alluded to the city’s major industries and maritime activities. The Baltimore Sun wrote in 1930 “As to Miss Meiere, there is… no artist in America who has a more highly developed sense of the possibility of her mediums… Her work on the new Baltimore Trust Building is the most recent example of her courageous pioneering in handling floors…not merely as a space to be filled with unrelated geometric designs, but as an integral part of the decorative scheme of an architectural creation.“

Also with Taylor & Fisher, Meière designed and painted the main altarpiece at St. Mark’s on the Hill in Pikesville in 1933. That same year, she completed her only other project in Baltimore, this time with Henry Dagit & Sons. She developed glass mosaics for three high relief altarpieces and the Stations of the Cross in the Church of St. Katharine of Sienna. The only commissions in the area that followed were in 1941 for the Municipal Center and in 1951 for the Washington National Cathedral, both in Washington DC.

Meière embellished over 60 buildings across the states, only a few of which are highlighted in her timeline. She worked collaboratively with architect and client on the concepts and then with craftsmen who helped realize them. Known for her versatility and willingness to experiment with new materials, Meière painted and designed for a variety of mediums, including glass mosaic, glazed terracotta, stained glass, and metal relief sculpture.

In 1956 she received the Fine Arts Medal of the American Institute of Architects. The citation described Hildreth Meière as a master of murals, but she was so much more. She was critical member of the architecture team who enlivened the built environment with stunning beauty and grace.

Library of Congress
“Four Virtues” Banking Hall Floor, Marble Mosaic, Baltimore Trust Company Building 10 Light Street, Baltimore, (1929)
Baltimore Trust Company Building Mosaic Floor Detail
Hildreth Meière Dunn
Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, St. Louis, MO
Hildreth Meière Dunn
Nebraska State Capitol, Lincoln (1927)
Hildreth Meière Dunn
“Christ and His Mother” Altarpiece in St. Mark’s on the Hill, Pikesville MD (1933)
Hildreth Meière Dunn
Detail, St. Mark’s on the Hill
Hildreth Meière Dunn
National Academy of Sciences, Washington DC (1924)
Hildreth Meière Dunn
“Health and Welfare” Frieze, Municipal Center Building, Washington DC (1941)
Hildreth Meière Dunn

Timeline

1892 – Born Marie Hildreth Meière on September 3 to Ernest and Marie Hildreth  “Minnie” Meière, a painter, in New York City

1900-11 – Attends Academy of the Sacred Heart, Manhattanville, NY

1911 – Spends year with mother and sister studying art in Florence, Italy

1912 – Returns and studies briefly at Art Students League, New York, NY

1913-15 – Moves with family to San Francisco, CA; Studies at California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco; Begins artistic career sketching theater productions

1916 – Returns to New York City to work with costume and set designer Livingston Platt; Designs theatrical costumes for production at the Metropolitan Opera

1918-19 – Studies mechanical drawing and surveying at Columbia University; Joins U.S. Navy; Trains as a mapmaker; Serves as an architectural draftsman

1919-23 – Studies mural painting at School of Applied Design for Women with Ernest Peixotto; Participates in competitions at Beaux-Arts Institute of Design

1921-22 – Studies at Art Institute of Chicago School of Art; Travels to Annapolis to study colonial interiors for competition entry

1922-24 – Project: Dome and pendentives of Great Hall, National Academy of Sciences, Washington DC (1st major commission from architect Bertram G. Goodhue)

1924-32 – Projects: 8 Interior Commissions, Nebraska State Capitol, Lincoln, NE, with architect Bertram G. Goodhue

1928 – Receives Gold Medal in Mural Painting from Architectural League of New York for work on Nebraska State Capitol

1928-56 – Projects: Apse, Narthex & Clerestory Windows, St. Bartholomew’s Church, New York, NY  (Architects  Bertram G. Goodhue; Mayers, Murray and Philips)

1929 – Project: Main Arch, Temple Emanu-El, New York, NY (Architects John, Butler & Stein)

1929 – Project: Banking Hall Floor, Baltimore Trust Company (10 Light St), Baltimore (Architects Taylor & Fisher, Smith & May)

1930 – Daughter Marie Louise Hildreth Meière born; The Baltimore Sun praises Meière’s artistic skills and floors of Baltimore Trust Company Building in March 2 article: “Baltimore Represented At Architectural Show”

1932 – Project: Exterior Roundels on 50th Street façade, Radio City Hall, New York, NY (Photograph of “Song” Roundel)

1933 – Project: Progress of Women Mural for National Council of Women exhibit, Century of Progress International Exhibition, Chicago, IL

1933 – Projects: Altarpieces for High Altar & Side Chapels at St Katherine of Sienna (now Greater Gethsemane Missionary Baptist Church), Baltimore (Architect Henry Dagit & Sons); Altarpiece at St. Mark’s on the Hill, Pikesville (Architect Taylor & Fisher)

1937 – Starts 6 terms as First Vice President of the Architectural League of New York

1939 – Projects: 11 exterior commissions at 1939 New York World’s Fair

1941 – Cover story in American Artist magazine features her work in September

1941 – Project: Frieze, East Courtyard of Municipal Center Building, Washington DC (Architect Nathan C. Wyeth)

1942-44 – Serves as Vice President of Citizens Committee for the Army and Navy providing 500 portable altarpieces to military chaplains (75 of her own design)

1945-61 – Projects: 9 commissions at Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, St.Louis, MO (Architects Barnett, Haynes, & Barnett; Magualo & Quick)

1946-52 – First female member of the New York City Municipal Art Commission

1951 – Project: Half-dome of Apse in Glass Mosaic, Chapel of the Resurrection, Washington National Cathedral, 3101 Wisconson Ave NW, Washington DC (Architect Phil Frohman)

1956 – First woman to receive Fine Arts Medal of the American Institute of Architects

1961 – Passes away on May 2 at age 69 working on the last of 9 commissions for the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, St. Louis, MO

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