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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 The images are provided here as historical documents for study.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: Albert C. Runquist. Medium: Paint on canvas affixed to niche in the wall. Dimensions: 4 ft. x 12 ft. Location: East stairwell. The mural is signed by the artist, bottom left.

The mural consist of eight primary panels. Albert Runquist and his brother Arthur were at work on murals to be located in the library stairwells in February 1936. 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. See also the companion mural, Development of the Arts.

Panel 1. Stone Age.
Family group discovers use of fire for warmth and cooking and utilizes clubs and stones for hunting, agriculture and protection. Animal skins provide warmth.

Panel 2.  Iron Age.
Humans learn to work metal into weapons and articles of adornment. Animals are domesticated and agriculture is advanced.

Panel 3. Early Egyptian.
Humans discover the principles of lever, roller and inclined planes and are forced to  work in groups making possible large buildings and monuments. The invention of the sundial, the crude plow and hieroglyphics make possible the measurement of time, ease human work and provide a means of recording human thought.

Panel 4. Greek Period.
Astronomical discoveries give knowledge of the broader world and universe, explaining many phenomena affecting human life. Mathematics becomes the basis of all future quantitative science, including architecture and engineering. Intellectual activity and education are valued.

Panel 5. Renaissance.
The invention of paper making and printing and the development of navigation based on astronomy bring parts of the world closer together and, at the same time, expand the civilized world. Newton formulates his law of gravity. Human anatomy is explored.

Panel 6. Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries.
Faraday experiments with electricity. Gear-based mechanisms are adapted for clocks and steam powered engines.

Panel 7. Twentieth Century
Students study traditional knowledge. Research leads to new discoveries in physics, chemistry, biology, botany, engineering, and geology. University of Oregon setting includes The Pioneer, Johnson and Deady Halls, University seal and Oregon grape.  -.> Larger image

Panel 8. Modern Period.
Figures at levers and switchboard symbolize human control of power. Gas engine, X- ray, airplane, observatory and skyscrapers represent applications of scientific development. Einstein, Madame Curie, Marconi, Edison and Burbank typify modern scientific pioneers.

Base (left). Roots and geological forms.

Figure at the base of the tree represents humanity rising to the erect position of a thinking being

Base (right). Roots and geological forms.


"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.