Louis Frederick Grell’s (1887-1960) large theatre mural designs combined are unquestionably his greatest contribution to the world of art. Commissioned primarily throughout the 1920’s and early 1930’s where many are over one hundred feet in length gracing the ceilings and walls of some of Americas finest architecturally significant structures of our finest cities.
Based in Chicago, Grell imagineered countless scenes; this is to say something entirely unique in setting, location, time and character. The many landscape scenes existed only in Grell’s imagination until he put oil on brush and applied it to canvas. Many are based on folklore or Greek mythology and history, but it is the select many pictures that absolutely only resided in his imagination that stand out.
From 1916 to 1922, Grell taught figure drawing and commercial art at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts where, according to his sister Helen, Walt Disney was one of his students in 1917 and 1918.
At a time when modernism was taking over the world art scene and turning against the old-school traditional styles, Grell appeared to ‘buck the system’ by continuing to earn countless commissions where he chose to incorporate many of those traditional figural scenes. He continued to rebel against those trends throughout his fifty-five year career.
Watch the Louis Frederick Grell published documentary by the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Watch the 2015 Living St. Louis documentary on Grell and his paramount Union Station mural aired on PBS.
Watch the Chicago Tonight PBS segment on Louis Grell and his Chicago Theatre murals.