Chopin School
Chopin and Stephen Collins Foster, 1940

Frederic Chopin School auditorium, 2440 West Rice Street
Oil on canvas with casein, two murals, 5' x 85' each
Artist: Florian Durzynski (1902-69)
Commissioned by: the Works Progress Administration, Federal Art Project
Restored by: the Board of Education, 1998

The surprisingly beautiful auditorium of this school erected in 1917 has a barrel-vaulted ceiling, graceful balcony, and large mural mounted above the dado on each of the side walls, spanning the entire length of the room. Frederic Chopin and Stephen Foster are represented through imaginative recreations of their musical compositions. Chopin, who lived from 1810 to 1849, is shown in a contemplative pose, eyes closed, while an enchanting corps de ballet in pink costumes dances to his music. The romantic landscape at the other end of the painting may be a depiction of Poland, his native land. Seated at one end of the other mural, holding a sheet of music, is Stephen Foster, in a nineteenth-century setting of the American South. Foster, whose dates are 1826-64, composed over two hundred minstral songs and other pieces such as "Oh! Susannah." Beautifully costumed men and women who resemble the cast of an elaborately staged musical sing and dance, enacting scenes from Foster's songs. In the background, men unload bales of cotton at the side of a river, probably the Mississippi, while others look on.

Chopin School: (a) Frederic Chopin; (b) Stephen Foster. Photographs by Tom Van Eynde, courtesy of the Chicago Public Schools, murals commissioned by the Works Progress Administration, Federal Art Project.

An image from A Guide to Chicago's Murals by Mary Lackritz Gray

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