Mural, The World of Radio, 1934
This is a Mural. It was designed by Arthur Gordon Smith and made for Jessica Dragonette and Mrs. Nadea Dragonette Loftus. It is dated 1934 and we acquired it in 1983. Its medium is cotton and its technique is wax resist dyeing (batik) on plain weave. It is a part of the Textiles department.
Created by Arthur Gordon Smith (Canadian, 1901–n.d.) and completed in 1934, this batik mural, entitled The World of Radio, was commissioned by Nadea Dragonette Loftus for her sister, Jessica Dragonette, "the girl with a smile in her voice." Dragonette was a soprano and one of the most popular radio personalities of the 1930s; sixty-six million fans listened to her weekly radio performances.
At the center of the mural is Jessica Dragonette, in the 1880s Worth gown she wore when she sang at the event celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Edison’s invention of the electric lightbulb. Music radiates from her in all directions. She is flanked by figures of Drama and Music and backed by radio antennas and New York City skyscrapers. The corners have vignettes that illustrate important moments in Jessica Dragonette's career or milestones in radio broadcasting.
In the upper left, radio’s first broadcasting studio with regular daily programming: Pittsburgh’s KDKA as well as the WJZ 500 watt transmitter in Newark, NJ. In the upper right is the NBC studio at 711 Fifth Avenue where Jessica Dragonette debuted in 1930 on the Cities Service Concert program with conductor Rosario Bourdon and his forty-piece orchestra, announcer Ford Bond, and the Cavalier’s Quartette.
In the lower right, Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt places a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Solider at Arlington on Armistice Day. Dragonette appeared with the Roosevelt’s and sang at that ceremony from 1933–36. In the lower left corner is Admiral Byrd and his men in the South Pole where they received bi-weekly broadcasts from NBC; Dragonette sang during one of these programs in 1929.
A segmented medallion commemorates famous radio broadcasts including: Dempsey-Tunney prize fight, the Flight into the Stratosphere in a manned balloon, and the America’s Cup yacht races of 1899 when Marconi telegraphed results from sea to a land-based station at the offices of the New York Herald.
The foreground shows symbolic figures of Agriculture and Industry and Church and State. Radio is personified by a woman holding a radio at her heart, with music streaming out in waves.
The mural hung in Dragonette’s home studio for many years. It was exhibited in 1971 in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts exhibition entitled The World of Art Deco. In 1978, Cooper Hewitt borrowed the mural for an exhibition entitled Look Again.
It is credited
Gift of Nicholas Meredith Turner in memory of Jessica Dragonette..
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Its dimensions are
H x W: 262.9 × 492.8 cm (8 ft. 7 1/2 in. × 16 ft. 2 in.)
Cite this object as
Mural, The World of Radio, 1934; Designed by Arthur Gordon Smith ((Canadian, 1901–n.d)); USA; cotton; H x W: 262.9 × 492.8 cm (8 ft. 7 1/2 in. × 16 ft. 2 in.); Gift of Nicholas Meredith Turner in memory of Jessica Dragonette.; 1983-73-1