Human Endeavour

Human Endeavour mural

Oil on canvas, 1956

250cm(h) x 850cm(w)
Five canvases, each 5.5 feet wide (approx. 167cm) by 8.5 feet high (approx. 250cm)
On display, Lower Hutt War Memorial Library

Len's subject for this mural was arts and sciences and he drew inspiration from a quotation from the Book of Proverbs:

The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge.

The 50 life-size figures depicted represent different aspects of human endeavour, including education, music, farming and commerce. Each figure is an actual portrait of a person living in Lower Hutt who had distinguished themselves. Len's object was to represent for all time the period in which the library was erected.

Once the five panels were installed a ribbon was painted to tie the five panels together as one work. This task, which couldn't be done until the panels were finally installed, was completed by Len's father, Leonard Cornwall Mitchell.

Many of the figures remain unidentified but those identified are listed below, followed by their occupation and their representative role in the mural:

Panel One

Human Endeavour panel 1

Leonard Victor Mitchell, Artist - a self portrait in the top left corner of the mural
James W. (Jim) Gawn, Sculptor - Len's close friend and colleague (see here for Len's portrait of Jim Gawn)
(?) Mr William (Bill) Amour, The editor or chief reporter of The Hutt News, Reporter
(?) W. (Bill) Kerr, The Manager of the Hutt News, The Press
Fred V. Ellis, Head of the Wellington Technical School of Art (where Len studied), Artist - depicted with a piece of stained glass.
Mrs Maru Macpherson Jones, Potter
Bob Goldfinch, Electrical Engineer with the P & T, The Theatre
Mary Mackenzie, Actress & Director, The Theatre
Mr F.S. (Stan) Ramson, Headmaster of Hutt Valley High School, Headmaster
Naera Pomare, Grandson of Sir Maui and Lady Pomare, School Boy
Patricia Horsham (Frethey), School Girl/Dancer, Ballet Dancer

Panel Two

Human Endeavour panel 2

Stanley Oliver, Conductor
Enid Bond, School Teacher
Jenny Muston (architect Ronald Muston's daughter), School Girl
The Hon. Sir Thomas Mason Wilford, Former NZ High Commissioner to London & Member of Parliament, Statesman/Politician
William T. Strand, Former Mayor 1931-33, Local Politician - possibly a posthumous portrait taken from a photograph
Keith Cook, Architect (Electricity Board Building)
Ronald Muston, Architect (War Memorial Library)
Ken Angus, Building Contractor (War Memorial Library)
Sir Walter Nash, Leader of the Labour Party, Statesman/Politician

Panel Three

Human Endeavour panel 3

Dr Roy Te Punga, Geologist, Geologist/Scientist
Dr William Fogg, Medical Superintendent 1944-68
Miss Emily Pearse, Matron of Hutt Hospital 1949-58, Nurse

Panel Four

Human Endeavour panel 4

Peter W. Barlow, Manager BNZ Lower Hutt 1952-62, Banker/Commerce
Brock F. Jamieson, Managing Director of Ford Motor Co., Businessman
Mrs Gwen Wilson, Bank Clerk - Len's sketch for Gwen is thought to be in a Private Collection
(?) Harlow Gage, Managing Director of General Motors, Businessman
Charlie Titter, Foreman for Angus Construction (War Memorial Library), Foreman/Builder
Mrs Joan Gibbons, Shop Assistant for Carey's the Drapers, Shop Assistant
Marshall Mackie, Grocer at Mackie's 4 Square Eastbourne, Grocer
(?) Superintendent Morris Ernest Lines, Police Superintendent, Police
Neil Gillespie, Solicitor to the Lower Hutt City Council, Barrister
(?) Norman (Norm) Croft, President of The Hutt Park Trotting Club, Racing Administration
Mr Justice Hay, Judge/Former Mayor, Judge - posthumous portrait
(?) Brigadier Alan Andrew, Army Officer
Leonard Payle, Butcher
(?) Henry Walker, NAC Pilot, Civil Aviation

Panel Five

Human Endeavour panel 5

(?) Air Commodore (? Air Vice Marshall) Ian Morrison, Airforce Officer
Unidentified, Sea Captain in the Merchant Navy?, Merchant Navy Officer
(?) Captain Bronc Edwards (? Captain Taylor), Captain in the Navy, Naval Officer
Unidentified, Bus driver for New Zealand Railways Road Services?
Unidentified, Plumbing Apprentice - tradesman who worked on the library construction
Unidentified, Postman
Unidentified, Farmer
Peter Bleakley, Mechanic/Fitter for the New Zealand Railways Workshop, Mechanic/Fitter
Unidentified, Engine Driver for the New Zealand Railways Workshop, Engine Driver
Hector G. Hume, Chief Fire Officer, Fire Officer
Unidentified, Electrician - tradesman who worked on Library construction

A large number of Len's conte drawings for the mural were purchased by the Alexander Turnbull Library in the 1990s.

Len presenting his design to Mr D M Wylie and Mr Ronald Muston

ABOVE: Wellington artist Mr Leonard Mitchell, left, [with his design for a mural?], Mr D M Wylie, and Mr Ronald Muston. Evening post (Newspaper. 1865-2002) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1955/2182-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

The cartoon Len presented is still held by the Mitchell family. View it here.

Len and Frank Mitchell with the finished Human Endeavour Mural

ABOVE: Mural in the Lower Hutt Library featuring Hutt Valley personalities. Evening post (Newspaper. 1865-2002) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1956/0383-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.