The Capitol is home to two stunning murals, one is a 1914 depiction of California’s past, present and future, the other depicts the origin of the state’s naming.
The Mathews murals are viewable in the Lower Level virtual tour.
In 1913, the California State Legislature appropriated $10,000 to decorate the Capitol rotunda as part of a trend to bring art and history to the building. Arthur F. Mathews, a prominent San Francisco artist, was given the commission to create a series of murals that would depict the historical periods of California. Mathews completed twelve murals in four sets of three (triptychs) in time for the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition.
The murals are an excellent example of a regional artistic style known as “California Decorative.” Arthur and his wife, Lucia Kleinhans Mathews, combined a romantic classicism and idealism with a Renaissance color palette and California imagery to create this distinctive style.
Mathews’ 12 murals were displayed in the first floor rotunda until the beginning of the Capitol’s restoration project in 1976. At that time, the murals were removed and conserved. In 1981, they were installed in the basement rotunda to better preserve the original appearance of the first floor rotunda. This installation safeguarded an historic piece of art for California and its Capitol.
On October 16, 1937, three murals painted by Lucile Lloyd were unveiled at the State Building in Los Angeles. Commissioned specifically for the building through a Great Depression-era program (the WPA), they remained on view for 38 years. The building was torn down for safety reasons in 1975. Fortunately, the murals were saved, and, in 1991, the Senate Rules Committee had them restored and installed in the California Room, now rededicated as the John L. Burton Hearing Room in honor of the former Senate President pro tempore.
In a sweeping panorama, the three panels tell the history of the name of California. The two side panels portray important flags that have flown over the state. The central panel shows the history and development of the state through the Spanish, Mexican, and American eras. Realistic figures trace the state’s history and vivid images illustrate the state’s unique natural beauty and resources.