Henry Varnum Poor (designer)
Henry Varnum Poor (1887–1970) was an American architect, painter, sculptor, muralist, and potter. He was a grandnephew of the Henry Varnum Poor who was a founder of the predecessor firm to Standard & Poor's.
Born in Chapman, Kansas, Poor attended Stanford University, studied painting at the Slade School and under painter Walter Sickert in London, then attended the Académie Julian in Paris. He returned to the United States in 1911 and taught art at Stanford before moving to San Francisco to teach at the San Francisco Art Association. Following military service in World War I, he settled in Rockland County, New York, and focused on ceramics. In 1925 he married journalist and writer Bessie Breuer.
In the late 1920s, Poor gained recognition as a painter and eventually turned to murals; he was commissioned to paint twelve murals in the U.S. Department of Justice and the mural Conservation of American Wild Life in the Department of the Interior during the 1930s. During World war II he was head of the War Art Unit of the Corps of Engineers. He served on the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts from 1944 to 1945. In 1946 Poor was one of the founders of the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and taught at Columbia University. Poor was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and was a resident fellow in visual arts at the American Academy in Rome from 1950 to 1951.
Self-taught as an architect, Poor designed the "Crow House" on South Mountain Road in New City, New York for himself, and designed houses or home renovations for Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya, John Houseman, Burgess Meredith and Maxwell Anderson. He was also a potter, with ceramics in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and ceramics designed for Radio City Music Hall. He also has works in the collections of the Whitney Museum and the Phillips Collection. Poor's papers are in the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian.
As a muralist, Poor executed several large commissions:
- ceramic mosaic for the ceiling of the Union Dime Savings Bank, Sixth Avenue and 40th Street, NYC, 1927
- 12 mural panels for the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building, Washington, D.C., circa 1935
- Conservation of Wildlife in America mural, Department of Interior Building, Washington, D.C. 1937-38
- Grape Harvest, a ceramic tile mural for the U.S. Post Office, Fresno, California, 1941–1942
- Two murals depicting Carl Sandburg and Louie Sullivan at the Uptown Chicago Post Office, 1943
- extensive Land Grant Frescoes for the Old Main Building at Pennsylvania State University, over 1,300 square feet (120 m2) of work, between 1940 and 1948
- murals for the Louisville Courier-Journal Building, Louisville, Kentucky, 1948
- "Henry Varnum Poor, Artist, Dies at 82," New York Times. December 9, 1970.
- Civic Art: A Centennial History of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, 2013)
- Thomas E. Luebke, ed., Civic Art: A Centennial History of the U.S. Commission of Fine Art (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, 2013): Appendix B, p. 552.
- Civic Art: A Centennial History of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts
- "Museum in the Works Is Losing Some Content" A news story from 2009 about effort to make a museum of Poor's Crow House.
- on Poor's papers at the Smithsonian
- on Poor's Chicago Post Office murals
- "Poor's No Pauper" Illustrated article by Daniel Grant.