Field Museum Murals – Chicago IL

Project type: Art Works, Murals
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Julius Moessel worked under the Federal Art Project, and the WPA Federal Project Number One. He created an astonishing eighteen murals. The 7′ x 9′ panels were created for the Chicago Field Museum’s “Plants of the World Exhibit”, specifically for the collection titled “The Story of Food Plants.”

This project took two and a half years to complete (1938-1940), and while Moessel painted all eighteen by himself, he worked under the supervision of the Field Museum’s curator of botany. The murals were created as a way of visually showing people [historic] cultivation around the world- demonstrating farming and agriculture in various countries such as West Asia, Africa, Mexico, and many more. Examples include: Planting Potatoes, Peru; Pressing Olives, North Africa; Threshing Grain, Europe; Overland Caravan, Iran; Urban Produce Market; Gathering Lily Pods, Oregon; Planting Taro, New guinea; and Sugar Harvest, Brazil. The original intention of “the murals were envisioned as an ‘illustrative adjunct’”- in other words visual aides to the items on display in the exhibition.

These murals capture what modern forms of film and technology can’t, which is the history of cultivation. These series of murals over seventy years old are still on display today at the Field Museum.

Source notes

Gray, Mary L. "The Story of Food Plants." The Story of Food Plants. University of Chicago Press, n.d. Web. 11 May 2015.

Originally posted in the New Deal Art Registry:

Project originally submitted by Katarina Otero on May 13, 2015.

We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.


Location Info

1400 S Lake Shore Dr
Chicago, IL 60617

Location notes: "Plants of the World" exhibit, second floor

Coordinates: 41.86617, -87.61698

4 comments on “Field Museum Murals – Chicago IL

  1. Mark Alvey

    The Paramo plants mural is not one of the 18 by Julius Moessel. It is by Arthur Reuckert (see:…/bulletin19chic.pdf). The Travelers Palm and the American elm are not by Moessel either. Probably also Reuckert. The plant murals were moved around in recent years without much thought to the “Story of Food Plants.” You can view all the Moessel murals on-line here: Also, correct dates are 1938 to 1940. He finished in the fall.

    • Gabriel Milner

      Thank you for this information. I’ve updated the post to reflect your contributions.

  2. Ok. Note you still have two murals not by Moessel as illustrations. If you want to swap in a few from the Field Museum gallery, go ahead. Just be sure to list the digital ID number and credit FM.
    Also i just noticed ….. Planting taro, not painting ……

    • Gabriel Milner

      We’ve gone ahead and made corrections—thank you for your continued support in helping us to improve our site.

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