Texas Tropical Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program

Historic Murals

"Cowboy Dance" depression era mural, Anson Post Office
"Cowboy Dance" mural, Anson Post Office


The tradition of mural painting in Texas, much of it accomplished during the early part of the 20th century, derived its inspiration from the great muralists of Mexico. Painters like Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco, who illustrated halls and walls across our nation and Mexico with social and political commentary, served to inspire Texas muralists, particularly those who had the good fortune of working with the likes of Rivera first-hand.

Typically, murals were first painted on canvas then adhered to walls, but more authentic processes required the artist to paint directly on wet plaster (buon fresco) or the dry, plastered wall (fresco secco). These were techniques more familiar to European painters working centuries earlier than to someone like Texas painter Howard Cook who accomplished a 16-panel epic titled "San Antonio’s Importance in Texas History" across the foyer of the San Antonio federal building. Artist John Ward Lockwood created "Texas Rangers in Camp" for the community of Hamilton using the dry fresco technique.

Both Lockwood and Cook were among more than 40 painters employed through Roosevelt’s Public Works of Art Project, a Depression-era back-to-work program for artists designed to decorate public buildings throughout the nation. A more permanent program followed, and post offices and federal buildings in communities across Texas benefited significantly from the project. Many of the 90-plus murals of this period on walls from El Paso to Quanah and from Kilgore to Amarillo have not survived. But today, efforts are being made to rescue and restore the remaining works that, together, help define a unique period in the country’s art history known as the "American Scene."


Texas State Historical Association logo
Read more about post office murals in the Handbook of Texas Online.