“Winold Reiss and the Cincinnati Union Terminal by Gretchen Garner is a valuable and timely reminder that both the Reiss murals and the terminal itself were on the apex of modernity when created in the early 1930s. … An important record of forward thinking in a city frequently accused of looking backward.”
“Gretchen Garner has performed a high public service with her insightful work on Reiss's Union Terminal mosaics. We know they are highly valued, even cherished, by the people of Cincinnati. Now, thanks to Garner, we can see how they fit into the larger sweep of art history. While it is surprising that this level of study has not been done before, it is very welcome just as nine of the mosaics are returning to the city. The book will help inform and inspire the search for permanent home for these treasures.”
Paul Muller, Executive Director, Cincinnati Preservation Association
When Winold Reiss won the commission to design and install the immense mosaic murals in the Cincinnati Union Terminal in 1931, he was already a noted artist. After immigrating to the United States from Germany in 1913, he quickly had become a sought-after portraitist and designer of large public art projects.
The Cincinnati Union Terminal murals are extraordinary not only for their size and the boldness of their color and design but also for the artist’s use of mosaic, an unusual choice for the time. After Reiss’s death, he and his work fell into relative obscurity as tastes and trends in art changed. The terminal itself closed in 1972 and was partially demolished. It reopened in 1990, transformed into the Cincinnati Museum Center, and the awe-inspiring murals of the rotunda are once again on view to visitors.
Winold Reiss and the Cincinnati Union Terminal collects full-color images of the mosaic murals, including those rescued before the demolition. Gretchen Garner traces the inception of the mural project and the selection of Reiss to design and construct it, as well as Reiss’s own development as an American artist and the artistic and historical context for the work. In this book, these evocative and vibrant murals—a signal work of public art in Ohio and in the nation—finally get the attention they deserve.
Gretchen Garner is an art historian and the author of Disappearing Witness: Change in Twentieth-Century American Photography. She curated and wrote the exhibition catalogs for Reclaiming Paradise: American Women Photograph the Land and Six Ideas in Photography: A Celebration of Photography’s Sesquicentennial. She lives in Columbus, Ohio.
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