Court of Honor, 1934

Painting a vision for the Texas Centennial Exposition

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by Kathryn Siefker, Associate Curator of Exhibition Content

Fair Park in Dallas, home of the State Fair of Texas, is known today for its iconic Art Deco architecture. But in 1934, when Dallas was selected as the central exposition site for the 1936 Texas Centennial celebration, Fair Park was limited to 80 acres and a handful of buildings. A $25 million construction project, the vision of architect George L. Dahl, transformed the existing fairgrounds into a masterpiece worthy of a world's fair.

George Dahl (1894–1987) was a prominent architect who came to Dallas in 1926. The Dallas committee seeking to win the bid for Texas's Centennial exposition encouraged Dahl to develop an overall architectural concept for the fair. He was highly qualified for the job. In addition to his extensive architectural and design experience across the nation, Dahl had visited and studied several major expositions. Dahl presented a series of speculative paintings to the Texas Centennial Commission on September 6, 1934. The color renderings were romanticized visions of the Centennial exposition designed to showcase the potential of Dallas and Fair Park.

The paintings, including this one titled Court of Honor, helped Dallas win the bid. Painted by artist Eugene Gilboe, the building in Court of Honor was never actually constructed. Once Dahl was appointed chief architect for the Texas Centennial Exposition, he hired Gilboe as his “colorist.” Gilboe was responsible for developing the very sophisticated architectural color and the lighting scheme for the exhibit buildings and exterior spaces that tied everything together.

Gilboe was one of more than 8,000 workers Dahl supervised to develop 200 acres of exhibit buildings and infrastructure in nine months. A team of designers worked together to finalize Dahl's vision, a complex of Art Deco style buildings with smooth expanses of sun-colored walls, brightened with murals in bold colors and accented by massive sculpture.

Today the fairgrounds he created are on the National Register of Historic Places and are the largest concentration of public Art Deco buildings in the United States.

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Court of Honor, 1934 Artifact from Dallas
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