The murals at Clark Hall, ca. 2007
Photograph of the murals at Clark Hall, ca. 2007 Allyn Cox, artist Courtesy of Communications, U.Va. Library
While the University featured virtually no public art in the 19th-century, decorative programs enhanced its early 20th-century building projects and articulated its ideals. Collaborations between architects and artists grew increasingly common in this period and resulted in splendid interiors such as the reading room of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Allyn Cox, a prominent artist who also worked in the U.S. Capitol, designed a series of murals illustrating ancient law precedents for the University’s new law building, Clark Hall. Painted on canvas for the sumptuous Memorial Hall, the two large murals depict Moses delivering the Ten Commandments and a dispute from Homer’s Illiad. Together, they represent the power of the law to govern human morality and to settle disagreements.
The James R. McConnell monument, 1932
Photograph of the James R. McConnell monument in its original location, 1932 Gutzon Borglum, sculptor; Holsinger’s Studio, photographer The Holsinger Studio Collection (MSS 9862)

In the 1910s, the University became populated with sculptures. These works beautified the grounds and celebrated those who embodied the University’s ideals, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Homer, and those lost in World War I. Pilot and former student James R. McConnell died in aerial combat in 1917 and was memorialized by Mount Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum. The artist considered the statue “one of the finest things he has ever done” and interpreted it: “the feet still touch the earth, although muscles are taut with endeavor to fly.” Originally erected on the back of Monroe Hill in 1918, the sculpture was moved next to Alderman Library in the late 1930s.