The Blizzard of 1888

Jeanne Reynal

Glass Mural

The Blizzard of 1888 by Jeanne Reynal

About this piece

On January 12, 1888, Nebraska was hit with a historic and unexpected blizzard of disastrous proportions. Reports state that the day started unseasonably warm. Then the wind changed, driving a massive snowstorm into the state. Temperatures plummeted to 34 degrees below zero and people and animals were suddenly trapped in a dangerous situation.

The storm lasted 12-18 hours. The most terrifying element of the storm was that it caught school children away from home trapped in tiny schoolhouses. This resulted in heroic acts by teachers and older pupils who cared for young children. The most famous of these cases was Minnie Freeman of Mira Valley, Valley County. When the storm hit, she tied herself and the 13 children in her school together single file. They pushed through the storm and managed to make it to the nearest farmhouse and all survived.

This specific story is depicted in this mural. In a golden line stretching from the bottom right of the mural, you see the small silhouettes of the school children tied together, making their way through the storm. Minnie is depicted as larger than the children tied to them. On the left side of the mural is a much larger figure with its arms outstretched over the group. It is believed this figure is a great spirit guiding Minnie and the children to safety. Others believe the largest figure signifies the storm itself.

The mural uses glittering pieces of glass that appear to shimmer as light hits it.

About Jeanne Reynal

Jeanne Reynal
Jeanne Reynal working at her studio on the property of Frederick Thompson, Stinson Beach, CA, 1947. Courtesy Reynal Archive and Eric Firestone Gallery, New York

Jeanne Reynal was born in 1903 in Whiteplains, New York. Reynal pioneered a new type of mosaic that took on a more contemporary and abstract approach.

At the time the standard for mosaics was a Byzantine approach that was very ordered and flat. Reynal flipped that on its head and added great texture and depth to her work. She was a master of using glass in her work. Although cutting individual pieces of glass for her work took a great deal of time, the effect was it gave a much greater surface to reflect and refract light.

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