Fan of Full Fathom Five? Be sure to check it out at its new home!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Prismatarium

Juli Carter took the time to comment on a previous post about the Aquatic Park Bathhouse, alerting me to her lovely photos of the ceiling of the room that Hilaire Hiler called the Prismatarium. Juli generously granted permission to reproduce her photos here, and writes:

"Alerted by recent pictures in the Guess Where SF Flickr pool and subsequent discussion, a friend and I made a special trip to see the newly cleaned and restored Maritime Museum (formerly Aquatic Bathhouse). Everything about it is spectacular: the architecture, the murals, the view towards Alcatraz...

The Prismatarium was empty of exhibits, full of echoes and shade. These pictures show the light fixture at the center of the circular room, with the color wheel that extends out to the windows, in natural light (with the windows blocked to preserve the art) and with the exposure digitally manipulated."

Juli's photo of the ceiling in natural light:

And Juli's digitally manipulated photo:

It is a fascinating room, and these photos show only the center point of the large, colorful ceiling. In Aquatic Park Building Decoration, Hilaire Hiler the room, originally "The Ladies Lounge," and this ceiling fixture are described:

At the opposite end of the Portico is another circular room which is used as a Ladies' Lounge. The form of this room made it appropriate for the decoration which consists of a color circle covering the entire ceiling. A moving lighting fixture containing lights in the color of the Physical Primaries makes it possible to give striking demonstrations on the relationship of color and light. Charts showing the Psychological the Pigment Primaries [sic], and the Solar Spectrum, etc. adorn the walls and make the room a veritable full size schema of the world of color in outline form, which its designer, Hilaire Hiler, calls a "Prismatarium" functioning in relation to the world of color much as a Planetarium does for the heavens. These considerations in no way interfere with the function of the room as mentioned above, as the fondness of the Fair Sex for colors is too well known to merit discussion.

To see a couple of the "charts" mentioned above, go to the NPS Museum Collections catalog, and search: hilaire AND hiler AND painting

My thanks to Juli for her wonderful contributions to MaritimeCompass.

Photos © All rights reserved, Juli Carter,
Used with permission


Buck said...

Welcome back! Wonderful photo of the ceiling; it's amazing what artists do with light.

Heather said...

Thanks, Buck! It *is* amazing! Artists (including photographers, I'd say) work such magic--hopefully you can see this ceiling in person someday--it's breathtaking.