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Historic Knight Library: Art & Architecture

Guide to the art and architecture of the 1937 historic Knight Library, University of Oregon, Eugene.

decorative This work has been removed from public view since September 2020. Click here to learn more.

decorativeThis guide contains images of the original mural. This work depicts racist ideals, which UO Libraries strongly oppose. The images are provided here as historical documents for study.


Artist: Arthur Runquist.  Medium: Paint on canvas affixed to niche in the wall.  Dimensions: 4 ft. x 12 ft.  Location: East stairwell.

The mural consist of eight vignettes. It is signed "Arthur Runquist" bottom right.  Arthur and his brother Albert were at work in February 1936 on the murals to be located in the stairwells of the library. One of the murals by the Runquist brothers was completed by November 1936; the other in 1937.  It is likely that the brothers collaborated on the creation of both works.

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Panel 1: Early Primitive Period.
Cave dwellers paint images on their walls, sew skins and shape earthenware.

Panel 2: Late Primitive Period.
Cave dwellers paint images on their walls, sew skins and shape earthenware.

Panel 3:  Egyptian.
Architecture becomes an art form along with sculpting, mural painting and decorating scrolls.


Panel 4:  Greek Period.
Performing arts develop, manifested by music, drama and dance. Human figure is depicted more realistically.

Panel 5: Medieval Period.
The influence of the Christian Church is seen in illumination of books, music and stained glass. Sculpture and woodcarving become more sophisticated.

Detail, between panel 5 and panel 6.

Panel 6: Renaissance.
Artists expand their media; illustrated by glass blower and goldsmith. Musical instruments are refined. Murals become more elaborate as depicted by Michelangelo. 

Panel 7: Modern Era.
Campus scene provides setting for the arts as formal courses of study. “ARS” cast in stone, Oregon fight song and Deady Hall represent the strength of the arts at the University of Oregon.

Panel 8:  Twentieth Century.
Great modern artists are depicted by Paderewski, Shaw, Caruso, Bernhardt and Orozco. Cinema and radio symbolize emerging media.


"Brothers Explain New Library Murals." Oregon Daily Emerald, October 22, 1937, 4.

Letter to Earl Pellett, November 21, 1936.  Burt Brown Barker Archives. [States that one Runquist mural is finished; the second may proceed.]

Gilkey, Katrina Lee. Observations of Resilience and Defeat in Arthur Runquist's Paintings of Labor and the Land. Thesis, Reed College, 2004.

Horowitz, David A. Martina Gangle Curl (1906-1994): Peoples Art and the Mothering of Humanity. Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission,

Jones, Catherine. "To Set Record Straight: 'Runquists' Both People, Paintings," Oregonian, March 10, 1968, 108.

Kimbrell, Leonard B. “Artist Brothers Armed with a Strong Social Conscience,” Northwest Magazine, Oregonian (Published as The Sunday Oregonian) - Sunday, November 22, 1981, 163.

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The captions for the panels are from the letter "Mural by Arthur and Albert Runquist, 1937, Artists' Interpretation," written by Arthur Runquist for M. H. Douglass, University Librarian, October 10, 1938.  This letter would have been written approximately one year after the murals were installed.