Resources of Northern Michigan, 1936
H. Frezell (American, 1901 – 1970)
Oil on canvas, artist’s painted wood frame
Michigan State University Museum, 2nd floor Auditorium*
* Note: The Frezell mural is located in the MSU Museum auditorium, which is open during educational programs and by special arrangement. Contact museum staff to view the mural.
Originally intended for the Bessemer Courthouse boardroom in the
Upper Peninsula, Natural Resources of Northern Michigan was given
to Frances and Walter M. Berry sometime in the mid 1940s in appreciation
for their years of local and statewide community service. The mural
hung in the Caspian Community Center where Berry worked before
becoming the Director of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration.
In 1957, the Berrys donated the mural to the Michigan State University
Museum, where it now hangs in the Auditorium on the second floor.
Natural Resources of Northern Michigan depicts an amalgamated
view of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, incorporating many of
the subjects – agriculture, industry, and leisure – as
well as the positive message of economic recovery that the WPA
commission encouraged during the troubling years of the Great Depression.
Painted in a representational style and accurately detailed, Frezell
flanked the foreground image of leisure and tourism with images
of the Upper Peninsula’s two main industries: Iron ore extraction
and transportation on the left and logging and lumber on the right.
The suspension bridge in the far upper left corner is likely Mackinac
Bridge. Although the current structure was built between 1954 – 1957,
engineers drew up proposals for the bridge in 1934 – 1935.
Here, the bridge leads the viewer’s eye towards a distant
city, drawing a relationship between the natural resources and
labor of the Upper Peninsula to the urban population and the finances
of the city. Although some buildings are identifiable such as the
Lansing State Capital, the U.S. Capital, and the Statue of Liberty,
Frezell represents a generic model city.