FLURY, GODFREY (1864–1936). Godfrey Flury, decorative painter and commercial artist, was born in Oensingen, Switzerland, on July 6, 1864, the son of Josef and Zäzilia Flury. He was educated by priests in Solothurn, but instead of entering the church, at age sixteen he immigrated to the United States with his family. He found work in New York City as a painter and decorator and stayed in the United States when his family returned to Switzerland in 1886. He and his sister moved to Buffalo, New York, where their father had acquired some land; sometime thereafter Flury moved to Kansas City, where he established himself as a decorator. On April 14, 1887, he married Margaret Elnettie Shafer in Buffalo, New York; they had one son. A year after their move to San Antonio in 1891, Flury divorced Margaret.
In 1892 he moved to Moulton, where he painted the interiors and exteriors of homes and churches. In 1895 he was commissioned to paint the interior of St. Mary's Church of Praha, a work that proved to be the most important of his career. He painted the ceiling of tongue-and-groove planks a cool sky-blue and emphasized the church's classic vault with trompe l'oeil ribs that mimicked medieval stone vaulting; He adorned the wooden columns with painted Gothic capitals. The ceiling he divided into panels ornamented with painted vines, flowers, curving gold scrolls, and symbols such as a chalice, a star, and an eye within a radiant triangle. Above the altar Flury commemorated Praha's Czechoslovakian heritage by depicting the main cathedral in Prague and an important convent nearby. At the highest point above the altar he painted three angels around a jeweled cross. The church was a great success and won Flury other commissions, notably one to paint the pressed steel ceilings of the Lavaca County Courthouse (since repainted). Sketches indicate that he also painted the interior of St. John's (near Schulenburg), and the interior of the church in Cestohowa has been attributed to his hand, but there is not enough original work remaining in either church to support an attribution. The painted ceilings in the C. Cockrill and Kellough Faires homes in Flatonia have both been attributed to Flury.
On April 16, 1895, Flury married Agnes Valchar in the Praha church; they had two daughters and three sons. In 1902 the Flurys moved to San Antonio, where Godfrey worked primarily as a commercial artist after an unsuccessful attempt at chicken farming. His second marriage ended in divorce in 1911, and he moved to Austin that year. In 1911 Flury established a sign-painting business at 502 Colorado Street. At this time he ceased to paint the interiors of buildings and immersed himself in business, real estate, and civic activities. He transferred his Masonic membership from Moulton to Austin and joined the Shriners, the Scottish Rite Temple, the Austin branch of the Knights Templars, and the Austin Saengerrunde Society. On November 11, 1911, he married Alvine Glismann. This marriage, a happy one, lasted until Flury's death. They had one daughter and one son. In 1918 Flury became a naturalized citizen.
His most notable artistic efforts during his Austin years were the preparation of elaborate floats for parades and various civic displays. Following the sale of his advertising company in 1929 he spent the remainder of his years traveling, dabbling in real estate, and painting scenic views of the Hill Country and wildflowers and Austin landmarks such as Barton Springs. In 1934 he temporarily resumed control of his faltering advertising business, which he resold to a San Antonio company, and entered the University of Texas as a freshman to study mechanical engineering. He died at home on October 28, 1936. His friends subsequently organized a memorial exhibition of his work at the Elisabet Ney Museum. The interior of St. Mary's Church in Praha was attributed to him in 1972, his work authenticated by preliminary sketches and notes that correspond to the church's interior. These sketches were exhibited at the University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio in April 1972.
Austin American-Statesman, October 30, 1936. Dorothy Agnes Flury, Our Father Godfrey: A Biography (Austin: Hart Graphics, 1976). Godfrey Flury Collection, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Richard Pierce, "Maticka Praha," Texas Highways, December 1974. Connie Sherley, "In Praise of Painted Churches," Texas Highways, October 1989.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, Kendall Curlee, "Flury, Godfrey," accessed January 16, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ffl32.
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