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Rudolph Zallinger Mural Unveiled At Hartford Public Library's New American Place Room

'The Early History of Hartford' Commissioned By Aetna In 1980s


April 28, 2012

In the '80s, Aetna Life and Casualty commissioned famed muralist Rudolph Zallinger to create a panorama of "The Early History of Hartford" to hang in its offices in the city. In the decades since it was finished, it has hung in those offices, seen by Aetna employees as they went through their work days.

Now it is in a place where anyone can see it: Aetna has donated the mural to Hartford Public Library. On Friday, library officials unveiled the work inside its new American Place room, the space set aside on the first floor of the 500 Main St. library to help new immigrants study to become Americans.

"Where it was, it wasn't in a great high-traffic spot," said Mike Marshall, the head of asset management for Aetna. "Here, there will be a lot more traffic, a lot more appreciation. That'll be good. It's a Hartford story, not an Aetna story."

The 40-foot-wide oil-on-canvas gives a left-to-right historical overview of the city: From left, Thomas Hooker greets Native Americans in 1636; colonial women work in gardens while men stand by homes and confer with each other; industrialization comes to the city in the form of shipbuilding, mining and trains; gun maker Samuel Colt confers with rifle maker Christian Sharps; Mark Twain stands beside a Pope bicycle and Pope car; and the city is seen in a panoramic view.

Zallinger (1919-1995), who emigrated from Siberia when he was a little boy, is famed for his dinosaur and modern-mammal murals at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven, and also for his drawing "The March of Progress." He taught at the Yale School of Fine Arts, the Hartford Art School at University of Hartford in West Hartford, and at the Paier School of Art in Hamden.

His daughter, Lisa David, helped unveil the work on Friday and was moved to tears by the tribute to her father. Armand Morgan of the Yale Peabody gave a lively talk about Zallinger, and historian Wilson Faude explained the various aspects of the painting, which was the last mural Zallinger created.

The event coincided with a federal naturalization ceremony down the hall, and many recent immigrants crowded around to see the mural.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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