New Deal Mural Study for "Stampede"

Beginning of a 16-foot New Deal post office mural in Odessa by El Paso artist Tom Lea

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If you ever visit an old local post office, take a look around—you just might see some art history! During the Great Depression, the federal government created many work programs to provide income to the unemployed while creating projects of benefit for the public as a whole.

Often, artists were commissioned to paint murals in local post offices depicting the life of the people in the area. These works of art have been recognized as national treasures and many of them have been preserved.

El Paso native Tom Lea painted seven works for the Federal Art Project, including The Nesters, a mural in the Ben Franklin Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. This small oil-on-canvas study was done for Stampede, a 16-foot mural Lea painted for the post office in Odessa. It was inspired by the cowboy ballad "Little Joe Wrangler," in which a storm spooks a herd of cattle.

Lea also illustrated the classic Texas history books of J. Frank Dobie. During World War II, Lea became a war artist correspondent, traveling more than 100,000 miles to document the Allied forces for Life magazine. After the war, Lea authored and illustrated his own books, several of which became Hollywood films. 

Images courtesy of Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin. Gift of C.R. Smith, 1976. Photograph by Rick Hall.



See this and other artifacts on the Interactive Texas Map

New Deal Mural Study for "Stampede" Artifact from US Post Office, Odessa, Ector County
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