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The University of Texas at Austin


Briscoe Center Receives 175-foot Historic Belo Mural

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The Belo mural is disassembled by a team in The Dallas Morning News' lobby.
Workers remove a panel of the Belo mural from The Dallas Morning News lobby.
Crew disassembles the Belo Mural at The Dallas Morning News.

The Briscoe Center has received a historic mural, commissioned in the 1940s by the A. H. Belo Corporation, owners of the Dallas Morning News. Painted by the acclaimed muralist Perry Nichols with assistance from other Texas artists, the 175-foot mural depicts Texas history between 1842 and 1949 with a focus on the news media industry.

"The mural's depiction of Texas newspaper history is beautiful, compelling and historically valuable," said Don Carleton, executive director of the Briscoe Center. "At over 2500 square feet, this important work of art is too large to be displayed at the center, however digitization gives us an intriguing slate of options for making it continually available for research and viewing."

Painted by acclaimed Texas muralist Perry Nichols, with a small group of other Texas artists assisting, the mural begins with a scene that depicts the arrival of the first printing press in Texas in the 1840s. Scenes include those related to slavery, the civil war, and the development of modern farming. A central motif shows a giant figure brandishing a flaming torch that symbolizes the power of truth used by a free press in a democracy. The mural includes smaller details that speak to the nature of the news media industry – for example stage coaches (the main way newspapers were circulated before the advent of the railroads) and modern telegraphy (dedicated lines between Galveston and Dallas were used from the late 19th century to wire stories from one to another.)

Nichols hired six assistants but, "ended up painting over what the others had done… He apparently felt the work of the others did not meet his standards," said Judith Garrett Segura, the longtime historian of the A. H. Belo Corporation, speaking to the Morning News earlier in March. "He painted on canvas that went up like wallpaper onto the space created for the mural."

Installed in 1949 and fully restored in 1986, Belo originally commissioned the mural to adorn the Dallas Morning News's lobby. The mural breaks down into smaller 8-by-15 foot sections that were rolled and packed on site in Dallas by fine arts movers. Now in climate controlled storage, the center is exploring possibilities for future display, whether by graphic reproduction or by loaning out smaller sections. During the relocation process, the mural was professional photographed with a view to it being digitally reconstructed in the future.

The Dallas Morning News dates back to 1885, however the Belo corporation's story begins in 1842 – only six years after the Texas Revolution - with the founding of the Galveston News.