Harold Egan’s “The Richness of the Soil” was completed in 1939 for the Okolona, Mississippi post office. It was ordered painted over by the postmaster within days of its installation, for reasons that are not entirely clear, but most likely, related to the elements of modernism in the mural. Egan’s work was not the typical realism or regionalism favored by the South in post office murals.
Undocumented, but commonly accepted, reasons also include that the “female figure was too risqué for the 1930s” and that the “scantily clad woman was not well received.” However, Mark Clinton Davis of the Pearl River County Historical Society stated it was far more likely that the objection was due to the mural’s modernism. (Davis, Picayune’s Disappeared Mural).
The black and white photograph of the mural on Temple University’s Endangered Murals Registry depicts a woman who is fully clad from neck to ankle, with no body parts revealed other than lower arms and feet, providing support for Davis’ assessment that it was the style that was offensive rather than the content.
It is unknown if the mural still exists under the white paint, and there is interest in attempting to restore the painting if it remains.
Davis, M. C. (2012). Comments on Restoring Picayune's Disappeared WPA Mural. Reprinted with permission from the Pearl River County Historical Society. Preservation in Mississippi. Retrieved fromhttp://misspreservation.com/2012/10/11/18674/ The Richness of the Soil. Okolona, MS. Endangered Murals Registry. Temple University. Retrieved fromhttp://sites.temple.edu/endangeredmurals/murals/mississippi/
Project originally submitted by Susan Allen on March 9, 2014.
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