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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.


Design: Phyllis Muirden Ryder. Carving: Clarence E. Bates in collaboration with Art Clough.
Design Date: 1936-37. Carved: 1938-39. Installed in 1939. Medium: Carved Oregon maple panel. Dimensions: 5 ft. x 7 ft.
Location: Browsing Room.

Diana. Design by Phyllis Muirden Ryder. Browsing Room.

Dr. Suzana Radivojevic, Historic Preservation adjunct instructor and wood scientist, was employed at the request of Adriene Lim, Dean of Libraries, to analyze the condition, clean, and recommend future treatment of the Browsing Room carved panels. Photo: April 2017.

Doug Hodson and Amy Lake, UO Libraries, assist in the cleaning and preservation of the Diana and Pan wood carvings by removing them from their original locations and placing them in a secure place for treatment. The frames, not original to the piced, were temporarily removed to facilitate cleaning and wood preservation requirements.

Browsing Room, 1940, with the carved panel on the south wall.  The panels were originally unframed as evidenced by this photograph. They were removed from the south wall locations because of HVAC installations. and repurposing of the room.

The cover illustration of the book Wood Carving for Pleasure (Western Pine Association, 1936) features a carving which is identical in design to Diana in the Browsing Room.  The book identifies the carver as Herbert Rayner.  Rayner, a Portland carver, likely used the design by Phyllis Muirden Ryder.

In a 1937 status report for Burt Brown Barker, head of the WPA Fine Arts Project for Oregon, Browsing Room designer Brownell Frasier indicates that she had designs ready for carved panels for spaces over the three doorways and also for spaces over the two fireplaces. In a November 1938 article in the Oregon Daily Emerald, Frasier reports that the Browsing Room is complete except for the wall hangings. She states she was considering wood carved panels for the fireplaces but they had not yet been installed. Clarence Bates was hired to assist Art Clough, the chief carver, to work on the panels and other carving projects because Clough could not finish work in a timely way since he was involved in several projects. The 'overdoor' carvings were presumably never created while the 'overmantel' carvings were installed in 1939, in time for the dedication of the Browsing Room. The designs were based on earlier work by Phyllis Muirden.

Phyllis Muirden Ryder was a popular figure in the arts world of Portland, Oregon.  An art and design teacher at Grant High School and other locations, Ryder (known for most of her life as Phyllis Muirden) was active in the art, theater, and music. Her depiction of the figure called "Diana" was also used by Herbert Rayner, a prominent wood carving artist, for the popular book Wood Carving for Pleasure (Western Pine Association, 1936) which was often reprinted.

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"Browsing Room Claims Beauty, Uniqueness, Practicality, Rest." Oregon Daily Emerald, May 20, 1939, 3.

"Library Browsing Room Will Be Furnished Soon." Oregon Daily Emerald, March 30, 1938, 1. Article notes that tomato-colored leather chairs were being restuffed, other furniture to be added. Notes that delay in receipt of rugs is due to internal problems in China. Notes that wall decorations have not been determined, but that woodcarvings were being considered to hang over each fireplace.

Western Pine Association. Wood Carving for Pleasure. Portland, Or.: Western Pine Association, 1936.  The popular book was often reprinted; advertisements verify that the original publication dates is 1936.  Available from Internet Archive.

Dr. Suzana Radivojevic, wood scientist, was employed to analyze the condition, clean, and recommend future treatment of the Browsing Room carved panels, April 2017.