The Romanian émigré artist Saul Steinberg may be best known for his witty New Yorker drawings, but artistically acquainted Cincinnatians know him for an entirely different reason: his massive, 89-foot-long (now 75-foot-long) oil-on-canvas depiction of some of the Queen City’s most notable landmarks, entitled Mural of Cincinnati.
The work was one of three commissioned for the ultra-modern Terrace Plaza Hotel’s Skyline Restaurant back in the 1940s. When the hotel was sold in the 1960s, the mural was donated to the Cincinnati Art Museum. Now, after being off long-term display since 1982 (and an appearance in a Steinberg retrospective at CAM in 2007) the work has been returned to the public’s view in the museum’s newly renovated Schmidlapp Gallery. “Steinberg’s Mural of Cincinnati…has been a cherished part of the museum’s permanent collection since the 1960s, but we have never had an adequate place to display it,” says Julie Aronson, Cincinnati Art Museum’s curator of American paintings, sculpture, and drawings. “The new light-filled Schmidlapp Gallery allows visitors to appreciate the painting and all its nuances, including the artist’s quirky interpretations of Cincinnati landmarks.”
The mural’s style, timing, and subject matter don’t hurt either. “Mid-century modernism is all the rage at present,” Aronson says, “and Cincinnatians should feel a great sense of pride that such a spectacular, nationally important example placed the city at the forefront of the movement.”