Back Home, April 1865mural, 1939 Oil on canvas, 5 1/2 x 12 1/2 feet Post Office, Pleasant Hill, Missouri © James D. Lea

Back Home, April 1865mural, 1939 Oil on canvas, 5 1/2 x 12 1/2 feet Post Office, Pleasant Hill, Missouri © James D. Lea



In the spring of 1939, with a mural to paint for Pleasant Hill, portents of a violence to engulf the whole world were literally in the air. A radio in the living-room-become-studio brought us daily blasts of bad news from Europe; we heard the hysterical yammering of a madman under a huge swastika and we heard him answered in waves of sound vast as doom, Heil! Heil! Heil!

I painted a mural of some forlorn people standing on a piece of desolated ground, after a war. I gave it a title: "Back Home, April, 1865."

The painting was well received, and so were we, when Sarah and I went to Pleasant Hill and attached the canvas to the wall in the post office lobby at the end of May, 1939. More that twenty-five years later I received a cordial letter and a newspaper clipping from the young editor of the Pleasant Hill Times, a man whom I had never met, saying, "Nearly every week someone writes the postmaster, a city official or the Pleasant Hill Chamber of Commerce for information and a photograph of the mural."


Tom Lea, A Picture Gallery, Boston: Little Brown and Company, p. 31.