Hugo Ballin

born New York City 1879-died Santa Monica, CA 1956
New York, New York, United States
Santa Monica, California, United States
Active in
  • Pacific Palisades, California, United States
  • American

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.