Is It an Art Gallery or a Restaurant, or Simply a Little of Both?
Benjamin Forgey for The Washington Star (May 1980)
For that 75-foot-long wall, divided into 11 panels, the painter, William Woodward, entered into the spirit of the thing, delved into the history of mural painting and raided his vivid imagination to come up with a cornucopia of naked ladies, men, mermaids and satyrs, of fruits, flowers and overflowing trees, of mountains, lakes, marshes and seas — a barroom painting to end them all.
But it was the feel of some kind of pleasure-palace dream-world that Davidson and Laytham apparently wanted for the inside of the restaurant, and Woodward’s mural delivers the feeling by the bushel. After all, these are businessmen who love bars, and they were stimulated to the notion by a bar mral in the Cafe des Artistes in New York, this one painted, a bit more chastely, by the illustrator Howard Chandler Christy.
He spent more than a year and a half on the 11 panels, doing much of the work in his summer studio in France (which explains why so much of the background has the flavor of Brittany).
Woodward also went to the history books to relearn the craft of traditional mural painting. He perfected the complicated figure compositions on huge drawing sheets, called cartoons, traced them onto the canvas, and then develop[ed] the modeling of the figures in an underpainting of burnt sienna.
“Then,” he says, “I was free to paint,” and that he did, putting together clusters of figures with a sort of Rubensian enthusiasm that clearly is quite rare in the annals of bar-room art.