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    Description

    TOM LEA (1907-2001)
    The Americans from the East
    Design for Mural - St. Louis Post Office, 1939
    Tempera
    5in. x 15in.
    Signed and dated lower left
    Titled lower center

    Tom Lea, one of Texas's most celebrated artists, worked for six decades as a painter, muralist, illustrator, war correspondent, and author. Lea studied at the Art Institute of Chicago under John Norton, one of the most respected muralists of the 1920s and 1930s. Building on the foundation of his teacher and mentor, Lea painted murals in Washington, D.C., Texas, Missouri, and New Mexico for the Works Progress Administration.

    Lea won five murals for the WPA: The Pass of the North for the El Paso Federal Courthouse; Back Home, April 1865 for the Post Office in Pleasant Hill, Missouri; Stampede for the Odessa, Texas, Post Office; Comanches for the Seymour, Texas, Post Office; and The Nestars for the Benjamin Franklin Post Office in Washington, D.C.

    Lea painted other murals as private commissions. These include the West Texas Room mural for the Texas Centennial, a mural for the Public Library in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and a mural for the El Paso Public Library.

    Lea submitted two other proposals for mural competitions. These were a mural for the San Antonio Post Office in 1937 and a mural for the St. Louis Post Office in 1939.

    In 1939, after completing his installation for the Pleasant Hill Post Office, Lea began his research for his most ambitious project yet, the St. Louis Post Office. The project called for a cycle of nine large panels exploring St. Louis's historic role as a point of convergence of four different cultures from the four directions of the compass. This panel, subtitled The Americans from the East, was complimented by The French From the North, The Spanish From the South, and The Indians from the West. The other panels dealt with the westward immigration away from St. Louis, as well as the local environs of the city.

    Although he did not win the commission, this mural was the largest and most ambitious design project Tom Lea was to have undertaken in his life. The studies demonstrate Tom Lea's technical mastery and talent as a draftsman, as well as his lifelong interest in capturing the adventurous spirit of exploration in America's western frontier. Eight of the nine mural studies have been exhibited on two separate occasions. The first was in 2001 at the El Paso Museum of Art, the second was the 2004-2006 traveling exhibition of the Tom Lea Retrospective. In both cases the mural studies are referred to as the eight surviving preparatory works, the ninth designated as "lost." This study is that "lost work"! The eight other studies are in the collection of the El Paso Museum of Art.

    This is a wonderful opportunity to own a rediscovered Texas, as well as American Regionalist, masterpiece.

    Provenance:
    Tom Lea
    Rebecca Smith Lee
    Gardner Smith
    Mr. & Mrs. J.D. Schwartz
    Kevin Hill

    Inscribed verso:
    Space No. 4 St. Louis Competition (Tempera)
    Design for Mural - St. Louis Post Office
    Scale 1/2" = 1'
    Tom Lea
    Summer 1939

    Also inscribed verso:
    For Gardner Smith my nephew
    7/14/79
    Rebecca Smith Lee

    Literature:
    The Art of Tom Lea, University Press, pictured page 73

    Exhibitions:
    Tom Lea and Charles M. Russell, El Paso Museum of Art, May 5 - July 29, 2001
    Tom Lea Retrospective, September 1, 2004 - April 17, 2006
    First Division Museum at Cantigny, Wheaton, Illinois
    J. Wayne Stark University Center Galleries, College Station, Texas
    Museum of the Southwest, Midland, Texas
    Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi
    Austin Museum of Art, Austin, Texas
    El Paso Museum of Art, El Paso, Texas



    Condition Report*: Excellent condition. Period frame and mat in excellent condition.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

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    Auction Dates
    December, 2006
    2nd Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
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