After fire destroyed Missouri’s capitol in 1911, voters approved a bond issue to construct a new statehouse. The tax to pay the bonds produced a one-million-dollar surplus, leaving a vast amount of money to decorate the new building. A special commission of art-minded Missourians employed some of the nation’s leading painters and sculptors to create powerful and often huge pieces of art to adorn Missouri’s most important new structure.
The Art of the Missouri Capitol presents the art in 270 images, many by Lloyd Grotjan, mostly of the building’s many compelling paintings, murals, and sculptures. Priddy, a journalist who has covered the Missouri legislature for more than three decades, and Ball, an art historian, use a wealth of historical materials to connect the grand design of the capitol decorations with accounts of sometimes temperamental artists and meddling politicians. The authors provide historical and artistic context to explain the many surprising, controversial choices the artists made, and they use Missouri history to explain the tales depicted in the artwork, revealing the events—and inaccuracies—that the paintings bring to life.
There were lots of stories and information that I have either forgotten from my school tour days or just never heard since the tour guides have to keep groups of kids interested and moving through the building. Did you know there is accidentally one too many stars on the representation of the Great Seal of Missouri on the capitol floor? There are supposed to be 24 to represent Missouri joining the union as the 24th state but the artist carved one too many. So, if you’ve ever stared at the seal and thought the stars were unbalanced or something was off about it… you are correct.