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Savage, Eugene The Spirit of the Land Grant College, 1961


Eugene Savage was born in Covington, in Fountain County, Indiana. He began his studies in art at the Art Institute of Chicago, where a Prix de Rome in painting enabled him to attend the American Academy in Rome. He also took classes in art at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fine arts at Yale University, and is best known for his mural paintings. He participated in many mural projects for the Works Progress Administration and was a member of the Mural Art Guild. He taught mural painting at Yale University for 28 years.

  • The Spirit of the Land Grant College, 1961
  • 58′ 10″ x 11′ 3″
  • Courtesy of Purdue University Libraries, Archives & Special Collections
  • Purdue University HSSE Library
  • Keywords: paintings, murals
  • Subjects: agriculture, farms, education, people, men, women, children, students, books, tools, hats, transportation, domestic animals, presidents, colleges, bridges, science, art, engineering, military, weapons, boats, buildings, agriculture equipment

This painting consists of five panels that tell the story of the history of the Land Grant colleges and the benefits such educational institutions had on the development of technologies, industries, sciences, and liberal arts in the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries. Although the style of the murals is representational—that is, we can recognize the forms in them as people, trees, or tractors—the objects are somewhat abstracted and exaggerated. Also, the artist did not use the traditional vanishing point perspective in his compositions.

Some Points To Consider

  • Help students identify in this mural the scenes and the events from history that each scene represents. Ask them why they think it is important for art to document such historical Indiana events. (Art 4.1.1)
  • There are many symbolic details in the mural, such as liberal and fine arts represented by the lyre, palette, theatrical masks, and the Janis bust. Ask students what other symbolic features they can find. (Art 4.1.3)