Scott White, Ph.D.
Curator of Art
Special Projects Manager and Curator of Art




In 1910, Major George Washington Littlefield built the Littlefield Building on Congress Ave. in downtown Austin, Texas, to house his American National Bank. To accomplish the goal of creating not only the tallest building between New Orleans and San Francisco, but also eclipsing any other banking establishment in terms of style and decoration, he commissioned C.H. Page to design the structure and a young muralist, E. Martin Hennings, to create six canvas murals celebrating the ranching and cattle industry. The murals were painted from real-life scenes on Littlefield’s Yellow House Ranch, formerly the southern division of the XIT Ranch, in Lamb and Hockley counties.

The American National Bank moved to a new building one block away in 1954 and the murals were removed from the walls, rolled up and stored. They remained stored away as the bank went through several owners, first M Bank, then Bank One and now JPMorganChase. Sometime in the late 1980s, the bank management decided the murals should be counted as liquid assets. So, some were offered for sale. Only three, the three in this exhibit, were sold. A ranching family near Utopia, Texas kept the paintings until recently.

E. Martin Hennings is now widely recognized for his work portraying people and landscapes of the American Southwest and as a member of the Taos Society of Artists. But he began his art career as an illustrator, draftsman and a muralist. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, graduating with honors and studying at the Royal Academy in Munich until war began in 1914. He came back to Chicago where he was employed painting murals at a commercial studio. His style of mural painting was different from other artists as he preferred to paint on canvas panels instead of painting directly on a wall or on a canvas attached to the wall. Hennings’ early commissions included murals at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the ceiling of the Florentine Ballroom at the Congress Hotel and at the Grace Episcopal Cathedral in Topeka, Kansas.

Mural painting in America was considered part of the architectural planning to fill large open spaces and to reflect the purpose of the building. The themes of the murals were, many times, statements of America’s great unlimited powers of industry. Murals became popular because of their use in educating people with ideas of nationalism, values and morals. The mural art form followed precedents in artistic expression set by the Greeks and Romans. Hennings’ murals can be compared to the friezes or mosaics of those, and other, cultures in composition and timeless quality of the depictions of the timelessness between one action and the next.

Double T © 2008 National Ranching Heritage Center
Texas Tech University
3121 Fourth Street, Lubbock, Texas 79409
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