Welty Painting Installed at Visitors Center
The giant mural of the state fair painted by Eudora Welty eighty years ago and discovered in the basement of her house in 2004 has been installed at the Eudora Welty House Education and Visitors Center. While known for her writing and photography, Welty had an interest in all the arts, including painting. “She took lessons from Marie Hull, and we were surprised when we didn’t find more paintings,” said Mary Alice White, Welty’s niece and former director of the Eudora Welty House. “However, we were not expecting to find one of her paintings in the old coal bin.”
The mural, titled “Mississippi State Fair,” merges rural landscape and fairground excitement. Men, women, and children eagerly crowd the foreground. One woman carries a jar of preserves. Another holds up a quilt. Ducks, chickens, and other livestock mingle with cotton candy and balloons as one person consults a map and another reads a book of poems.
“Welty was interested in the state fair for both its dramatic and pictorial possibilities,” said her biographer, Suzanne Marrs. “You see it in her writing and her photography.”
Eric Hays of Sustainable Solutions found the painting while cleaning out the basement during renovations. Christine Young, a conservator in Nashville, cleaned the painting. Robin Dietrich, curator of exhibitions at the Mississippi Museum of Art, examined the mural, which was done on two 4-foot-by-7-foot wood panels, and determined that Welty used house paint for it. Dietrich placed the mural’s creation as circa 1930.
In 2009 as part of the celebration of the 150th Mississippi State Fair, the Museum of Art featured Welty’s photographs of the fair and the mural in the exhibit “Merriment on the Midway.” “Miss Welty’s mural enthralled our visitors,” said Betsy Bradley, director of the Mississippi Museum of Art. “The mural offers viewers vivid, colorful evidence of Miss Welty’s keen wit and humor that are typically found in her writing.”
The painting is on permanent display in the Welty House Education and Visitors Center. Located at 1109 Pinehurst Street, the Education and Visitors Center is open free of charge Tuesday–Friday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Tours of the Eudora Welty House are offered Tuesdays through Fridays at 9 and 11 a.m. and 1 and 3 p.m. by reservation. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for students, and $4 for groups of thirteen or more. For more information call 601-353-7762 or email the Welty House.
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