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Historical Panorama of Alabama Agriculture
John Augustus Walker Murals

History

In 1939, ten tempera color murals were commissioned by the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service to be part of an exhibit at the Alabama State Fair. The ten murals, titled "Historical Panorama of Alabama Agriculture," painted by John Augustus Walker of Mobile, depict a colorful visual representation of Alabama's agricultural history.

Following the fair, the murals were exhibited at the Louisiana State Fair and eventually were stored and forgotten in the attic of the state Extension headquarters building on the campus of Auburn University.

In 1983, the ten murals were discovered, cleaned, repaired, and put on public view. After the brief exhibit, the murals were returned to their dusty attic, residing there for the next 20 years.

In 2006, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System rediscovered the historically significant New Deal era murals, and they became a focal point of Auburn University's sesquicentennial celebration. The present home of Walker's murals is Auburn University's Ralph Brown Draughon Library.

Works Progress Administration (WPA) Art Project

     

A come-to-the-fair reception featuring typical midway treats such as popcorn and peanuts beckoned visitors on the AU campus for a Saturday afternoon football game to stop by Foy Student Union Gallery to view the murals. Ready to greet guests were, from left, C. Bruce Dupree, Extension Communications art specialist; John Walker and wife Ann, the son and daughter-in-law of John Augustus Walker; Carol Whatley, Director of Extension Communications and Marketing; and Gaines Smith, Extension Director.

Extension commissioned the murals in 1939 with funding from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Art Project, a federal program established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to put unemployed Americans back to work.

The WPA Art Project commissioned work for public spaces from more than 5,000 painters, sculptors, printmakers, photographers, and graphic artists. The work emphasizes nationalism and the rediscovery of America in artwork.

The work of WPA muralists can be seen today in schools, post offices, city halls, courthouses, and other public spaces.

Historical Panorama of Alabama Agriculture

The Historical Panorama of Alabama Agriculture was the idea of Alabama State Fair vice president Warren Leech and Extension Service director P.O. Davis. Twenty-nine paintings were planned for the series, but only ten were completed.

The murals range in size from roughly 5 x 7 feet to slightly smaller, depicting themes of farm efficiency, economy, and opportunity, as well as milestones in Alabama's agricultural history. The murals were intended to be the backdrop of a larger exhibit displaying fresh produce, farm implements, baked goods, quilts, informative signs, and "modern" farm technology.

The Artist: John Augustus Walker

For information about the life and work of John Augustus Walker, visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Augustus_Walker

John Augustus Walker Note Card Sets

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System has created a set of note cards with images of the Walker murals. The set includes twenty 5" x 7" cards and envelopes.

To order the John Augustus Walker Note Cards

  • Call (334) 844-1592
  • Visit the Auburn University Bookstore
  • Or print the order form and mail with check or credit card (Visa/MC) information to the following:
    Publications Distribution
    Alabama Cooperative Extension System
    6 Duncan Hall
    Auburn University, AL 36839



Alabama's First Farmer, 5' x 7', tempera on canvas, Auburn University Special Collections

The first farmers were mostly Native American women. This painting combines both fact (land clearing, row crops, primitive tools) and fantasy (wigwams, blue trees, glowing yellow sky). This was the first painting completed in the Panorama series.

 


Science on the Farm, 5' x 7', tempera on canvas, Auburn University Special Collections

This painting had two themes: an array of agricultural products from around the state and modern farms tools and methods.

 


Came Explorers Bringing Meat Supply, 5' x 7', tempera on canvas, Auburn University Special Collections

Spanish explorers introduce European livestock to the state. Foreground figures represent church and state.

 


The Cotton Load Is Too Heavy, 5' x 7', tempera on canvas, Auburn University Special Collections

The scene depicts the waning of the plantation system, a decline of the self-sustaining farm, and erosion of the soil.

 


Tools and Labor Save the Harvest, 5' x 7', tempera on canvas, Auburn University Special Collections

Men at work on the farm reflect New Deal era values of productive labor.

 


Home and Family Life Begins, 5' x 7', tempera on canvas, Auburn University Special Collections

Women arrive on the frontier and begin the well-rounded farm family.

 


Agriculture Moves Onward, 5' x 7', tempera on canvas, Auburn University Special Collections

The only collage in the series, this painting shows a cornucopia of modern conveniences for the farm and the farm family.

 


The Farm Supports Itself, 5' x 7', tempera on canvas, Auburn University Special Collections

The self-sufficient farm has various crops at different stages of growth, livestock, abundant fresh water, home, and barn. This is the signature painting of the series.

 


Unto the Land Came a New Civilization, 5' x 7', tempera on canvas, Auburn University Special Collections

An early settler plows soft ground. Homes are built and the land is tamed. (Canvas stretchers created the background X impression.)

 


Farm Progress Is Great, 5' x 7', tempera on canvas, Auburn University Special Collections

Electricity, education, and modern methods come to the farm, but the horse-drawn plow and old ways haven't left.


 
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