This piece is the culmination of the progression of life as you pass from the Genius of Creative Energy through the vestibule and rotunda. Human Existence depicts a young family on a fertile landscape. The mother and father hold the arms of the child taking his first steps. Human Existence is a literal name and the themes center on that.
Harry F. Cunningham, an architect with Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue Associates who worked on the capitol, explained how the floors were created:
Large-scale mosaic was used, the tesserae being about ¾” square, of black marble and buff marble. Dr. Alexander determined the subjects for the panels and Miss Meière made the cartoons, the final ones being drawn at full-size, with a brush, on heavy paper. Some of the brush-drawn lines were thick in spots and thin in others—they were what the Japanese painter would call “living lines.” The patient workmen in de Paoli’s shop [in New York] chipped away at the little squares of marble until they could lay pieces on the lines and exactly reproduce them in the stone. The stones were pasted down onto…brown paper cartoons [which had been traced and reversed from Meière’s original designs] and then cut up for shipping to Lincoln. Out in the Capitol, they were laid [mosaic side] down in their grout, and—when the paper was removed—the pictures were there in their “living lines,” their buff and black squares exactly as they had been drawn with the brush on the heavy brown paper in Miss Meière’s studio.
Sunderland Brothers executed the inlaid marble.
About Hildreth Meière
Hildreth Meière (me-AIR) was one of the greatest American muralists of the 20th century. She was a pioneer in her field and created a more modern approach to murals that differed from the academic traditions at the time. She blended several classic influences, including classic Greek vase painting, Byzantine Mosaics, and Native American beadwork into a style known as Art Deco.
Up until her death in 1961 she acknowledged the Nebraska State Capitol as her crowning achievement.