Although his name is not a household word, the artwork of the late Peter Darro is a highlight of the Glenview State Bank.
Born in 1917 in Italy into a family of sculptures and artists, Darro grew up in the Chicago area and spent summers on a relative’s farm in Michigan where he fished, camped and became fascinated with American history and the American landscape.
Following in the family tradition, Darro attended Chicago’s American Academy of Art and pursued work as a commercial artist. After graduation he drove to the western states, where he sketched, painted and studied wildlife and the countryside, becoming an established, highly respected artist and oil painter.
Returning to Illinois, he was commissioned to paint portraits of dignitaries such as Abraham Lincoln, Senator Everett M. Dirksen and others. However, he preferred painting wildlife set in their natural habitats.
In 1971, during the construction of the 800 Waukegan Road location of the family-owned Glenview State Bank, the late Paul C. Jones, who was, at the time, bank owner, decided, according to a bank flyer, to illustrate the long struggle of “western man to overcome his environment and establish a just and equitable social system” through a series of murals on the bank’s upper level walls. For this purpose, he commissioned Darro, a local resident. The oil painted murals and portraits illustrated biblical and historical representations such as life in the biblical characters, scenes from the “Wild West,” early American statesmen and American life, the “Birth of A Nation,” as well as many paintings of wildlife. Also showcased along the balcony are portraits of well-known public and historical figures like Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Will Rogers, Alexander Hamilton and Jesus.
According to a pamphlet published by his estate, “The high degree of accuracy necessary for portrait painting is seen immediately in his wild life paintings, not only in his attention to detail in the creature itself, but in the way it relates to its surroundings. With sunlight glistening on fur or feather and intensifying its color and iridescence, subtle light reflecting from brilliant grasses and water, trees or underbrush casting and receiving shadows, the view has the intimate experience of being truly present at that moment in nature.”
A booklet written by Jones at the time the murals were being created tells the reasons for their titles. This booklet is available from the bank upon request.
The display is certainly a tribute to an incredible local artist and his legacy.