Amid the tumultuous artistic revolutions of the early twentieth century, Eugene Savage remained an advocate of continuity, tradition, and a scholarly model of art-making. Trained in Rome and at the Yale School of the Fine Arts, he later returned to Yale as decorator of the newly built Sterling Memorial Library and as a professor of painting, serving on the faculty for twenty-eight years. Like his Latin American contemporaries Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco, Savage created murals in the 1930s as powerful public statements, but his large-scale works contain not political but academic messages, commending settings like the libraries of Columbia and Yale to elite and studious audiences. The central figure in Alma Mater thus embodies the University by dressing in the school colors and holding a book bearing Yale’s motto, “Lux et Veritas.” She stands under the tree of knowledge, and allegorical figures of Light, Truth, Science, Labor, Music, Divinity, Literature, and the Arts pay her homage.
John W. Sterling, B.A. 1864, Bequest