Decorative bas-relief is hung in lobby of local post office
The Coshocton Tribune – June 28, 1939
“Men and Machines,” a large plaster bas-relief, was hung in Newcomerstown’s new post office on the west wall of the lobby Monday by Cesare Stea, Sunnyside, NY, sculptor.
Mr. Stea spent many months molding the clay model from which a plaster cast was made. The work was done in the artist’s Sunnyside studio from impressions he had obtained of Newcomerstown during a visit here last November. It was financed by the fine arts division of the Federal procurement bureau.
The bas-relief is 11 feet eight inches long and 49 ½ inches wide. It hangs above the door into Postmaster Katherine Baxter’s office. Four workmen, gathered on industrial machines, are shown in characteristic postures, each intent upon his work.
Artist Stea has been a sculptor for 25 years. He was born in Bari, Italy, and came to America at the age of six. While a boy he started out on his chosen career and later studied in the Beaux Arts Institute, New York City, and the Anton Bourdelle Art School in Paris.
He received additional instruction from Herman McNeil, Sterling Calder and Solom Borgum, well-known American sculptors. In Mr. Stea’s briefcase are some 20 photographs of his past work. “These,” he says, “represent 25 years of effort.”
Several statues from his studio had been accepted by outstanding New York museums and three have been set in the grounds of the New York World’s Fair, Mr. Stea says. The photographs reveal the change in art during the past 25 years from characterizations in their true forms to the present exaggerated “modernistic” trends.
“Modern art is not accepted by people other than artists,” the sculptor explained. “We strive to express a feeling in our modern art rather than simply to reproduce beauty. The bas-relief here in the post office is neither modern nor old fashioned. I have combined both trends into a happy medium that is acceptable to the majority of the people.” He agreed that a strictly modern bas-relief would have found little favor among residents of the typical American town.
At his studio in Sunnyside, Mr. Stea is working on his largest bas-relief. It is 45 feet long and nine feet wide and will be used in the government’s Queens’s bridge housing project in New York, he says.
"Italian immigrant Cesare Stea of New York City used a powerful pattern of men at work in his relief for Newcomerstown, representing the manufacture of rasps and files. His work is characteristic of the industrial imagery used by New Deal artists throughout the nation."
NOTE: In 1941, Mr. Stea also created a terra-cotta relief entitled "Industry" for a post office in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania. Sadly, it has been reported as destroyed.