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Local Industries (mural study, Springdale, Arkansas Post Office)

ca. 1940 Natalie Smith Henry Born: Malvern, Arkansas 1907 Died: 1992 oil on canvas 9 3/4 x 25 3/4 in. (24.8 x 65.4 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Transfer from the Internal Revenue Service through the General Services Administration 1962.8.54 Smithsonian American Art Museum
Luce Foundation Center, 4th Floor, 35B


Luce Center Label

The New Deal program of the 1930s helped artists like Natalie Henry find work during the Depression. The Section of Fine Arts in the U.S. Treasury Department held many competitions to find artists to create public murals and sculptures, and Henry won the commission to create a mural at the Springdale Post Office in Arkansas. While planning the mural, she interviewed Springdale residents and structured her design to include all the local crops and livestock that had brought prosperity to the settlement. The foreground includes a strawberry patch and poultry yard, while a vineyard and orchard fill the middle ground. Wheat fields and meadows lead to a distant glimpse of the Ozark Mountains just beyond the gently rolling hills. Although she was living in Chicago at the time, she showed her personal connection to Arkansas by including several portraits of family members who lived there. The man holding a chicken is an image of her father, and the two men talking over the strawberries are portraits of her brother and brother-in-law. The day after she installed the mural above the postmaster's door in November 1940, a reporter for the local newspaper praised Henry's work, writing that the design was "simple, yet complete. It has coherence one might think impossible for such a panorama view." (Eggensperger, "Local Post Office One of Nation's Few Having a Mural," newspaper clipping, n.d., American Art Museusm curatorial file) After fifty-six years in its original location, the mural was moved to a more stable home at the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History in Springdale, where it remains on permanent view. A conservator removed the canvas from the wall and repaired damages on the aging mural.

Keywords

Animal - bird - chicken

Architecture Exterior - domestic - farm house

Occupation - farm - animal husbandry

Occupation - farm - sowing

Study - mural study

New Deal - Treasury Section of Painting and Sculpture - Arkansas

painting

paint - oil

fabric - canvas

About Natalie Smith Henry

Born: Malvern, Arkansas 1907 Died: 1992