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Hugo Ballin

New York, New York 1879

Santa Monica, California 1956

Active in:

  • Pacific Palisades, California

Luce Artist Quote

“I believe when a painter applies his brush without purpose, without hope, labor becomes a habit, a sluggish, soulless habit.” The artist, quoted in “Hugo Ballin’s Mural Paintings in Temple B’nai B’rith, Los Angeles,” The American Magazine of Art, August 1930

Luce Artist Biography

Early in his career, Hugo Ballin painted idealized scenes of mythical figures and stories. His career took a detour after World War I, however, when he moved to Hollywood to become an art director. He returned to painting after a few years and created large, colorful murals for many public buildings on the West Coast. In 1936 he played a trick on the New Deal administrators who were granting mural projects to artists. He submitted eight designs: seven serious proposals and one “hoax” that showed scenes of heavy drinking, suicide, violence, and sex. To his surprise, this entry was chosen by the United States Treasury for a post office in Inglewood, California, and Ballin had to explain that he “would not think of accepting taxpayers’ money for painting . . . a mess of cooked-up vulgarity” on a post office wall.