This week I happened to have the pleasure of hearing a press conference in the House Lounge. What struck me as most interesting was not what the legislators had to say, but the mural the adorned the walls of the room. After I did a little research about the mural I found out it was painted by Thomas Hart Benton in 1936, and it represents the social history of Missouri.

The mural itself is extremely well done and very realistic. The people are so lifelike, it looks more like a vibrant photograph. It includes the adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, images of the Civil War, the story of Frankie and Johnnie, the industrialization of the state and the legend of Jesse James. Some of these events are painted out explicitly, but many others are hidden in symbols in the mural. I read that the black cloud that envelops one panel symbolizes the regretful history of the Civil War, and the part Missouri played in it. Another black cloud on a separate panel represents that industrial revolution that occurred in the state.

Many of the panels depict very well-known legends of the state, such as the stories of Mark Twain and the legend of Jesse James. Mark Twain’s stories are painted to look larger than life on the walls as they have become for the pride of Missouri. Huck Finn towers over Tom Sawyer and the rest of the lounge’s audience as a main figure of the mural. Jesse James’ life is also described in detail by the mural. As a Missouri native, the mural shows the generosity that the famous outlaw was rumored to be capable of. He is painted working hard alongside American Indians and slaves. Essentially, he is seen to be an integral part of Missouri society, despite the banditry he committed.

 

I’m sure I am not the only one who has been captivated by the mural in the House Lounge, and I feel the Missouri Capitol is lucky to house such an incredible piece of art.

 

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