Francis Millet and the Cleveland Trust

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Trent Pheifer

Guest
This past Wednesday a group of us from around Cleveland visited the Cleveland Trust building in downtown Cleveland. The building was built it 1908 and was shut down in the mid 1990s. In the center was a three story centerpiece crowned by a 65 foot glass dome. It is a beautiful building! They gave an architectural talk about the building too. But you may ask what link it has to Titanic. Francis Millet did about 12 murals surrounding the dome, they depict the settlement of the midwest. We were allowed access to the 3rd floor and got to see the paintings up close. It was amazing to see the work that Francis did. We took pictures and hopefully can post them soon. I had a few questions. Does anyone know of other paintings by Millet? and How do you pronounce his last name? I had always said Mill(ET) but the speaker kept saying Mill(AY). Thanks

-Trent
 
Apr 11, 2001
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Hi Trent- It is pronounced like the cereal grain- with the accent on the first syllable. He is often confused with Millais. Last month I visited his studio in East Bridgewater and saw some of his paintings there and at the library. He led a remarkable life and the ultimate bio is pending publication, written by a local historian. I saw the manuscript and it is remarkable, along with the Millet collection of ephemera which I hope to be cataloguing for the library this winter. His paintings are full of whimsy- with great titles like "Wandering Thoughts"- of a lady in church who is not thinking about the sermon, "The Love Letter", "Caught Between Two Fires"- a clergyman who is caught between two ladies in hot pursuit, and his lovely wife, Lily Merrill was one of his models. Millet was an easel painter, always used a model, and frequently used props from his various homes. He painted for large exhibitions, and really brought the mural form to America. I am working on a feature on Millet for VOYAGE currently but will scan a few photos from my trip. Amazing man was Frank- and it was he who asked Taft to let Archie Butt be released to accompany him on a little vacation to Rome- I actually saw the proof of this story. Millet had planned to stay 8 weeks in Rome but had to come home earlier as he was on the National Art Committee which was debating where to put the Chester French Lincoln Memorial in D.C.- the board ended up going with his wishes in the end.Just type his name into Google to see more of his paintings.
 
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Here is the studio, which Frank and his father built together when Frank returned from Venice. His Dad, Asa, was a doctor who lost one eye in a bow and arrow incident. The front part was the original studio.
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This is a very large canvas hanging in the library called "Sailing on the Bay of Naples"- glorious color. He always has wonderful little interactions going on in his multiple character paintings. You really have to take time to study the faces and action in the canvases.
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Here is a lovely portrait of an unknown lady he painted. As you know, Sargeant, Abbey, Mark Twain and St. Gaudens were all close friends of Frank-in fact Frank knew the cream of society and the best of the best in art circles. He was chief design consultant for the 1893 Chicago Exposition too- a real Renaissance man. What a way he had painting the folds of this red satin dress with lace!I have a website nearly done for Frank which I will post just after Christmas. I am ready to start up a Friends of Frank Society!
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Nearly all of the family is buried behind the church on the green, except for Frank's daughter and wife who died in England. His wife Lily Merrill was the sister of his Harvard room mate, Royal Merrill. Her famous Sargeant portrait is on display in NYC now in the Sargeant's Women exhibit- it is gorgeous, as was Lily! There is a little drawer in the back of the stone which I believe may hold his ashes.
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Trent Pheifer

Guest
Hey Shelley,

Thanks for posting the pictures along with all the extra information! I will be the first to join your club! They mentioned that he worked with the Chicago Exposition, in their speech! All really interesting. I will talk to you soon!

-Trent
 
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Gavin Murphy

Guest
This is an interesting thread. You say the Cleveland Trust building was closed down. Dare I ask, what is to become of it? You know, downtown Cleveland has great architecture........Terminal Tower, the old Statler Hotel, etc. Great place......and it also rocks and rolls!

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Vicki Logan

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May 15, 2003
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Shelly, Thank you for posting the Millet pictures. I am once again amazed at the knowledge you possess and are so willing to share. You are truly a wonderful resource to all Titanic buffs.
Vicki
 
May 12, 2005
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Am late to this thread and am sorry I missed it before. Not that Shelley needs any praise but I just wanted to say here what I have forgotten to tell her lately and that is that what she's doing in regard to Millet is phenomenal.

He really was a giant in the art world of his day and an intriguing character in his private life as well, so this concentration of attention on the man is long deserved and long overdue. I've only heard tidbits about the mountain of archival material that exists on Millet in Bridgewater but that's been enough to tell me the biography in the works will truly be an eye-opener. Thanks to Shelley for taking on the task of helping to catalog the Millet family memorabilia and for sharing her own research with us all here!
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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quote:

He is often confused with Millais.
Judging from the few examples of his work I've seen, and the titles and descriptions you've provided in the posts above, the resemblance extended beyond their names. That could almost form a catalogue of Millais' work in the latter stages of his career after he moved away from his Pre-Raphaelite roots and achieved commercial success. Thank you for sharing that material!​
 
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My pleasure as always- and there will be much more after the holiday. Presentation is important- so I want to tweak things to perfection on the Millet website! It always amazes me that quantities of unknown information is out there to be found- it just takes terrier determination and a little luck sometimes!
 
Aug 19, 2003
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Gavin,
Just happened to see your post on Cleveland Trust... better late than never, I guess. I don't browse around here very often, guess I should do so more often! I was there that day with Trent and some other folks. I did a little piece on the building and the Millet murals in a recent issue of Voyage (NO. 47) for TIS--and Shelley had quite a bit on him in the same issue. You can order that back issue if you are not a member. See the Voyage link on our site: http://www.titanicinternationalsociety.org/
There's a link to a back issue order form and also a link to a complete index of Voyage so you can see what else on Millet has been written over the years. I also might add that Shelley is to do a presentation on Millet at our upcoming DC convention--see the link to Convention 2005 on the site, if you don't mind me plugging this a bit.--Mary Ann
 
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Your article about the Millet murals that decorate the interior of the Cleveland Trust building was very well done, Mary Ann. Your articles are always well researched and well written, and this one was no exception.

John and I really enjoyed being at the Cleveland Trust Building that day with you, Trent, and Roman. Seeing the interior of the bank again after so many years was particularly exciting! As I mentioned to you sometime ago, John and I have been researching Millet and his works ever since that day at the Cleveland Trust bank. Your article served as one of our sources. There is another article about Millet that we would like to see but, unfortunately, it's in "Voyage 8" so is no longer available. If you know of anyone who has a copy of "Voyage 8" who might be willing to send us a copy of that article, we'd really appreciate it!

Denise
 
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It was good to see Denise this past weekend in D.C. at the TIS convention. This is the year, it seems, for Frank Millet and his murals! I went to Boston a few weeks ago to have a look at the LaFarge murals in Trinity Church, Copley Plaza, Boston. MSNBC broke an exciting story about the possibility of a new Millet mural being uncovered when the church was undergoing dome renovations. The mural had been covered over -it was St. Peter and the codfish. It is unsigned and so there is no proof they tell me, that Frank had anything to do with it. We do know he helped LaFarge and did paint the bull, symbol of an apostle. Here is the link to this exciting story. Sadly the mural is covered up again so we will never know for sure!
http://msnbc.msn.com/id/6125755/ I think Millet is a better muralist than this though!
Truly exciting news is the complete restoration of all of Frank's wonderful Post Office delivery murals which depict the mail being carried by all manner of means, including one panel of the RMS Mauretania bringing the Royal Mail. These fabulous panels suffered neglect for decades, and were found in poor condition in the Post Master's office and on a second floor behind clutter. Here are two links to that thrilling restoration tale, and may be worth the trip to Cleveland and the Metzenbaum.
http://www.mckaylodge.com/cleveland_murals.html
http://www.csemag.com/article/CA496128.html?industryid=23645
And finally- yet more murals! Rumor has it that Frank was carrying plans to paint murals for the New Bedford Public Library in his case on Titanic. Millet authority, Peter Engstrom says this is likely quite true. I have often visited the library which is in Massachusetts, near Fall River, and the blank walls and bays are perfect for the whaling and seagoing theme intended many years ago for Frank to portray. I was sorry not to get a chance to see his amazing clipper ship murals in the Baltimore Customs House over the past weekend. This summer will see a new young artist fulfill the plan for the New Bedford Library. Frank will be hot news this summer-and probably would have loved all of this!
http://www.southcoasttoday.com/daily/04-99/04-29-99/l01li143.htm
 
Aug 19, 2003
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Shelley, those links to all the articles on Millet were interesting. Denise was telling me a little bit about the murals being restored while we were all in DC. Look forward to the day when the public can see them in the old federal bldg. in Cleveland. I didn't think that the mural uncovered under the other one in Boston resembled his work that much after seeing your slide show in DC. What do you think, do you think it could be his???
 
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Actually, I don't think the work is good enough to be Frank's. Sort of like that famous scandal with the two Mark Twain portraits, both purporting to be Millets. Frank's grandaughter knew the second one was inferior. That's quite a funny tale and here's a link to the story.
http://www.twainquotes.com/disputedmillets.html
The faux Millet looks like a walrus!