Lloyd R. Ney, Study for New London Facets, 1940, charcoal, graphite and tempera on gessoed laminated wood panel, H. 69.25 x W. 167 inches. Museum purchase and partial gift in honor of Dr. Marvin and Muriel Sultz, Elkins Park, PA.

About the Artist

Fondly known as “Bill” by his friends and colleagues, Lloyd Ney showed a passion for art at a young age. In 1913, he left high school to study art in Philadelphia and later in Europe at the end of World War I. While studying abroad, he became familiar with various Modernist painters who broadened Ney’s techniques and approaches to his work. In 1925, he left Paris and moved to New Hope, Pennsylvania, where he joined a flourishing community of modernist artists who were interested in moving away from the popular style of Impressionism in the 1920s and 30s. Ney later became a significant contributor to this local progressive art scene forming a group called “The New Group” or “The Independents”.

Ney quickly became a fixture within this progressive Modernist art scene in New Hope and bought a home now known as the Towpath House, located on Mechanic Street. Ney became friends with painters such as Charles Frederic Ramsey, Charles Evans, and Louis Stone. This area became the center of the thriving artists’ community dubbed the “Latin Quarter,” populated by this new wave of sculptors and painters. He became famous for being dramatically turned down from the annual Phillips’ Mill exhibition held in New Hope in 1930. In response, Ney held a rival, modern exhibition the day before the Phillips’ Mill opening. He is now mainly known as a non-objective sculptor and painter, working with a variety of materials to produce textured surfaces.

Looking Questions:

  • What do you see in this work? Describe all the details you can find.
  • Describe the colors, lines, shapes and textures you can find in this work.
  • How has Ney divided up his composition?
  • Is there a focal point in this work? Why or why not? Explain.
  • Explain the use of depth and space in this work.
  • This work tells the history of the town of New London, Ohio. What kinds of things can we learn about its history by looking at the work’s details?
  • This work is a study, which is a drawing, sketch or painting done in preparation for a finished work. Imagine the colors that were used for the final painting. What colors would you use if you created the final work? Would they be different or similar to the final work?

About the Artwork

New Hope artist Lloyd Raymond “Bill” Ney created this large four-panel painting in 1940 as a study for his mural proposed for the United States Post Office in New London, Ohio. When Ney submitted his preliminary sketch to the Treasury Department’s Section of Painting and Sculpture in December 1939, he envisioned an abstract mural that would be a combined picture of the town’s history, depicting many ideas of scenes in one setting. His compositional challenge was to organize different scenes of the town’s history in such a way as to allow each scene to flow into the next space to produce a work with no single center of focus. You can see Ney’s Study for New London Facets on display in the Museum’s front lobby. It was Ney’s largest commission during his career.

When Ney drove to New London from New Hope, he set out to learn as much as he could about the town’s community, its people, history, and landmarks. Although he spoke to many residents, Ney allied himself perhaps most closely with the town’s oldest resident, William B. Thom, who provided the artist with a detailed summary of New London’s history.

The Ohio town’s colorful history began during the Revolutionary War when British soldiers burned the city of New London, Connecticut, in 1776 and a federal land grant promoted the migration of settlers to move west to Ohio. They named the new area New London in honor of their old town. In looking closer at the mural, you can see the figures representing the burning of New London, the settlers moving west in covered wagons, along with various other details. There is an image of the dome of the capitol symbolizing Ohio’s contribution of two U.S. presidents along with figures representing Civil War veterans and slaves escaping through New London. The mural study also features the town’s first train, baseball players, a farmer carrying apples to the schoolhouse to avoid students raiding his orchard, and the first hippopotamus seen in America! Finally, it also features a man who would visit New London yearly, shouting, “How far is it to Belle Fontaine?”. But there is more to see – what other details can you find?

New London Facets is one of the few abstract works commissioned for post offices by the Section of Painting and Sculpture of the United States Treasury Department, a New Deal program. Although federal officials initially rejected Ney’s sketch for the mural, they ultimately accepted it when the local community endorsed it as a brilliant depiction of how the town had triumphed over adversity. The original mural still hangs in the New London post office today.

Interdisciplinary Activities:

History/Social Studies:

  • Research the Revolutionary War: This mural depicts a time in history during the Revolutionary War. Research the Revolutionary War and create a visual timeline of significant events. In your timeline, include information about its causes and the results of this war in U.S. history.
  • New Deal Program Murals: In December of 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt set up the Public Works of Art Project to support artists, teachers, and craftsmen who were unemployed as a result of the Great Depression. This Project was part of the New Deal Program. Research more about these federal relief programs set up by President Roosevelt during this time and how this benefited artists and the rest of the country. In addition to the post office mural by Ney in New London, Ohio, what other murals resulted through this program? Find one that could be in your home city and state and create a report on your findings.
  • Learn more about the Great Depression: What was the Great Depression? When did it start and how long did it last? Research this period in time and create a list of events that happen during this period in U.S. History.

Visual Art/Art History/Language Arts:

  • Design a Museum: In the mid 1960s, Ney was hard at work on a project the artist hoped would secure his place in art history: The Ney Museum. Although never fully realized, he spent a large amount of time designing the building, planning its installations, and leaving detailed notes about what it would include. He had hoped that it would include most of his work, along with the work of his fellow painters, with additional space for changing exhibitions. If you could create a museum, what would it be? Design a building and create a detailed proposal of what this museum might have inside. What would its focus be? Would it feature one collection, or many?
  • Create a Mural: Just like Ney created his mural study for the New London Post Office, create a mural study of your own that could exist on your school building. What would the composition include? Would it be an abstract work or would you approach it in a more realistic way? What would the subject matter include? How large would it be? With your study, create a written proposal with its dimensions to accompany your work to convince your school administrators and teachers why it should be included on the school building as a permanent part of its architecture.
  • Compare and Contrast: While traveling abroad during his career, Ney was exposed to the work of Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky, and William Blake. Find works by each of these artists and compare them to the work of Ney. What similarities and differences can you find? Write a short essay of your findings.
  • Exploring Non-Objective Artwork: Ney is perhaps best known for his non-objective work, which is a type of abstract art that is usually, but not always, geometric and intends to convey a sense of purity and simplicity. He considered this particular type of abstraction to be the highest point and logical end of all artistic styles. Look at some works of Ney and other non-objective artists including Charles Ramsey, Louis Stone, and Wassily Kandinsky, and create a non-objective work of your own using colored pencils, oil pastels, or paint.

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