Tuesday, January 25, 2022

The Susquehanna Valley, A Mural by George Rickey

The tempera-on-canvas mural Susquehanna Valley  was painted as a federal Treasury Department Section of Fine Arts project by George Rickey. The work was installed in the lobby of the Selinsgrove post office in 1939.
The same year that Rickey painted the mural in Selinsgrove, he also did a Mural at Olivett College in Michigan.  Here he is shown working on the mural at Olivett.

"On a February morning in 1939, artist George Warren Rickey (1907–2002) and a group of four men met at the post office in Selinsgrove, Snyder County. Armed with cloth-covered rolling pins, the men attached Rickey’s mural entitled Susquehanna Trail to one of the lobby’s end walls. 

After six hours, they transformed the entire blank white wall, from marble wainscoting to ceiling, into a glorious depiction of a spring day in a nearby valley. Two farmers, one planting and one plowing, dominate the foreground. Behind them are the farmer’s family, another farmer on a discing machine, and several buildings, including Shriner’s Church, a local landmark. 
Rickey’s colors are pure central Pennsylvania: verdant green and chocolate brown fields, rich red soil, and the majestic blue Susquehanna River in the distance. The mural is practically an illustration for “America the Beautiful,” with its spacious skies and purple mountains, and farmers preparing for future amber waves of grain." - Heritage Magazine

George Rickey of New York arrived in Selinsgrove on [August 1 1938 to begin painting the mural..  He returned in January of 1939 to install it in the Post Office.

Untitled sketch for Selinsgrove mural (Mother and child) (Undated, gouache on board). George Rickey Foundation.

For the February 16th 1939 edition of the Selinsgrove Times-Tribune, Hester Hoffman, Susquehanna University Librarian and Instructor of Art Appreciation, wrote an in depth article about the artist and his influences, as well as the techniques used in this mural. 

The Mural, in the Post Office

 Ricky objected to her comparison of Grant Wood, and responded with his own article in March.  
"It is with considerable concern that I have read in The Times of February  the story about the mural I painted for your Post Office. Of course, Miss Hoffman is entitled to any opinion she may arrive at on the quality of my work. I suppose I should even grant that her interpretation is as valid as any other. But against some of her statements of fact I shall have to protest."


June 1940, an artist friend of Rickey's, Ulfert Wike came to Selinsgrove to paint.
Wike sat on a chair under the awning of Wentzels Department store and sketched a street scene that included the Schoch home, Selinsgrove Time building, Trinity Lutheran Church, Shambach's radio shop, Miss Bertha Peters dwelling, The Selinsgrove Candy Company, and the Farmers Hotel.
Rickey's mural at Olivett College in Michigan

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