A little update on the mysterious Frank Godwin murals at Kings County Hospital, Brooklyn . . .

Later on in this post is the text of an earlier post, that I posted back in 2012. I made it “Private” a long time ago, but I decided to re-post it in the light of certain recent content regarding Frank Godwin’s hospital murals, on Liz Rizzo’s “Frank Godwin, Artist” Facebook page.

On Liz’s Facebook page just mentioned, there is a highly fascinating Godwin drawing (posted October 19, 2016) showing the Pied Piper leading the kids from Hamlin. I thought I would here throw in a few rather subjective comments about the drawing, which I had never seen before.

Liz indicated that the drawing may relate to one of Godwin’s murals at Kings County Hospital. I tend to agree that this is the case, for a few reasons. Godwin produced what I would call a fair number of illustrations relating to nursery rhymes and fairy tales, and the Pied Piper story is more or less in that category. It might also be somewhat suitable for the “children’s department” (see below) of the hospital, although personally I would never choose it for that purpose, because of the dark nature of the story.

I think it was some kind of preliminary drawing (which in the end might not have been used as the basis of a mural). It does say “Defraude” instead of “Defrauded,” and that even by itself would hint that it was subject to further development.

To me the main thing that ties it in with the hospital is the “notching-out” of a couple of major areas (at the lower right and lower left) that appear to have nothing to do with the Piper scene. These suggest that the design was intended for wall space that had features that needed to be “worked around” and could not be painted over.

The painting discussed below had (or has!) a similar “notching-out,” such that the bottom edge of the painting appears at various heights from the floor.

Okay, that concludes my commentary for now.  The rest of this post (in boldface) represents a reposting of an earlier post on this general subject, as indicated above.

I think that the first place I heard of Frank Godwin’s murals for Kings County Hospital and the Riverside Yacht Club was in Who’s Who in American Art.

Google Books has Architectural Forum, Volume 57, 1932, in “Snippet view.” The following tantalizing text (at least) is visible, apparently in connection with Kings County Hospital:

Below are sketches of wall treatments in the children’s department.  The murals were executed by Frank Godwin [. . .]

So, I suppose that at least sketches of Godwin’s Kings County Hospital murals may have been published in Architectural Forum.

Based on a visit I made to Kings County Hospital back in 1975 in search of a Frank Godwin mural, I can say that I did not locate any such mural.  This is not to say that Godwin’s murals for the hospital did not exist then (or now).  I truly hope that they do exist!  I would love to see them someday.

Anyway, at the hospital in 1975, I was shown a box of materials which included a black and white photograph taken apparently in a children’s ward, showing portions of a mural which I am certain was painted by Frank Godwin.  It portrayed a little girl and a little boy (I believe somewhat larger than life-size), each reading a book, and the background had a nursery-rhyme theme — a very charming picture, somewhat reminiscent of (but quite different from) Godwin’s wonderful cover illustration for Tales from Shakespeare.

—Tom Sawyer

March 1, 2012

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2 Responses to A little update on the mysterious Frank Godwin murals at Kings County Hospital, Brooklyn . . .

  1. Elizabeth Rizzo says:

    Tom, thank you for your analysis! Back in the early 1990’s I went on a mission trip to a church in Brooklyn and while there, I called the hospital to inquire about the murals. The person they put me in contact with said there was only one mural left as all the others were plastered over due to water damage. I was unable to go to the hospital to view the mural… it would have taken a lot of clearance etc. I hope to get back in touch with them and at least get a photo. I do have in my possession the contract for the mural job from the city of New York.

  2. Liz, great comment, great information! –Tom

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