Paris Public Library Murals

The Paris Public Library hosts four murals painted by Texas Jerry Bywaters as part of the New Deal’s Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) in 1934. Two of the panels tell the story of the Great Paris Fire of 1916 and the town's subsequent reconstruction. The historic fire destroyed most of Paris’ central business district, including the Lamar County Courthouse. Despite damage estimates that ran to more than 11 million dollars, local residents rebuilt the town of Paris within a few years. To commemorate this process, the second panel in the series depicts the industry and resilience of the local citizenry. The mural highlights the reconstruction process and features the new county courthouse in the background.

The two other murals in the series feature well-known figures in Texas history, Davy Crockett (who died fighting at the Alamo) and cattleman John Chisum (a major figure in the southwestern cattle industry in the late nineteenth century).

The muralist, Jerry Bywaters, served as a professor of art at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and helped to define a distinctly Texan style of art that had much in common with the Regionalist style of the era. Regionalism was an American realist movement that was popular from the 1920s to the 1950s. In this style, artist emphasized scenic, earthy portraits of rural life, while shunning city life and developing technological advances. Bywaters in particular added a distinctly Texan feel to this art by showcasing earth tones, cowboys, and small rural towns like Paris.

This mural series was funded by the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), which operated under the jurisdiction of the Federal Treasury department. The PWAP was, like the Civilian Conservation Corps, a way of increasing employment during the Great Depression. Artists were employed as hourly laborers to beautify public buildings.

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