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Historic painting in the Madison post office

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Greene Publishing, Inc. Photo By Rick Patrick, September 28, 2016

Long Staple Cotton by artist George Snow Hill decorates the Madison Post Office. This is one of two post office murals by Hill in the state of Florida. The other is located in Perry.

Rick Patrick

Greene Publishing, Inc.

In the Madison Post Office hangs a painting titled ‘Long Staple Cotton.’ The oil on canvas painting, painted in 1940, depicts workers preparing cotton to be baled and shipped. The artist, George Snow Hill, was a renowned artist from St. Petersburg.

During the 1930's, at the height of the Great Depression, many communities had new post offices and other public buildings built as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The WPA was a federal program established by Pres. Franklin D Roosevelt as part of his “new deal” with the purpose of getting the American work force back to work. The WPA built roads, bridges, buildings, etc. At the same time there was a program called the Section of Fine Arts, sometimes called “The Section.” The Section was a program that began in 1934 and was administered by the Procurement Division of the U.S. Treasury Dept. The main purpose of The Section was to select high quality art to decorate public buildings, such as the post office in Madison. This served to not only provide jobs to artists, but it also made fine art accessible to those who otherwise may not have been able to see works of fine art. Many of these paintings are mistakenly thought to be part of the WPA. Although the WPA did support arts programs, such as theatre and other visual arts, The Section was a different program entirely.

George Snow Hill was born in Munsing, Mi. in 1898. He studied naval engineering and architecture at Lehigh Univ. and graduated from the College of Fine Arts at Syracuse Univ. in 1923. He went to Paris on a fellowship to study at the Académie Colarossi and the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. He also opened a studio in Paris during this time. From 1923-29, Hill's work was shown at the Salon des Artistes Francaise. He had a one man exhibition at Simonson Galleries in Paris in 1924. That same year, Hill had an exhibit at the Royal Academy in London.  He returned to  the U.S. in 1929 and worked in New York, before establishing a studio in St. Petersburg, Fl. in 1932. After his move to St. Petersburg, Hill completed several projects for both the WPA and the Section of Fine Arts throughout the state of Florida, including the work on display at the Madison Post Office. Hill's 1938 work, Cypress Logging, can be seen at the post office in Perry. In 1946, Hill opened the Hill School of Art in St. Petersburg where he lived until his death in 1969.

Special thanks to the Treasures Museum, located at 200 SW Range Ave., in downtown Madison for their help in the preparation of this story.

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