The Spirit of the Soil features a woman kneeling on land with her hands on cliffs that rise from the darkness below. The Spirit of the Soil is the first art-deco mosaic following the Genius of Creative Energy as you progress toward the Rotunda. The the Genius of Creative Energy kicks off the story of the creation of the Cosmos. The subsequent Spirits represent important steps leading to humanity. This particular piece is meant to symbolize the creation of the land that will eventually support human life.
The floor mosaics in the Nebraska State Capitol were painstakingly executed by Sunderland Brothers.
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.Harry F. Cunningham, Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue Associates Architect
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.