University Museums

Title: Untitled I and Untitled II
Name: Murals
Date: 1986
Medium: Oil on linen
Dimensions: 90 x 150 in. (228.6 x 304.8 cm)
Signed: Signed on the bottom right hand corner of each mural panel.
Marks: Lable plaques are to the right of each mural.
Classification: Paintings
Credit Line: Commissioned by the Iowa Art in State Buildings Program, Agronomy Project. In the Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Location: Iowa State University, Agronomy Hall, Ground and first floors
Object Number: U86.447ab
More Information
These indoor murals are located at the ends of long hallways in the Agronomy Building. As the viewer approaches these works, they appear to be windows overlooking the Iowa landscape. The method that Richard Haas used to achieve this effect is called trompe l'oeil. This is a French term meaning deception of the eye. The term is applied to a painting style that is so photographically realistic that it may trick the viewer into thinking the scene is real instead of painted. The illusion of the Agronomy Murals is created through the artist's incorporation of the images of the surrounding floor tiles, window moldings, and architectural pillars into the paintings. Of course the illusion is also enhanced by the artist's knowledge and use of perspective, natural color, and atmospheric effect.
The first floor mural displays a view of the rolling Iowa landscape on a sunny mid-summer day. The scenery is represented as if the viewer were looking out a ground floor window. The view includes many characteristic elements of the Iowa countryside such as fields of crops, farm buildings, and livestock. Included in the detail of the painting are the peaks of several of Iowa State's buildings.
The view seen in the second floor mural conveys quite a different effect from the painting a floor below. The painted scene presents the Iowa countryside from a bird's-eye view. This landscape shows the farms and fields broken into patterns of different colored patches. One of the most striking features of the painting is the image of the thunderstorm being led across the plains by a swirling tornado or possibly a Cyclone.

Artist's Comments
The views [of the Agronomy Murals] showed the agricultural and weather aspects of the American heartland, i.e., Iowa. The first view showed the fields and crops of the rolling hills Iowa farmland. The second took one up to the stratosphere as seen when one flies at 40,000 feet or more. Here the landscape is reduced to square miles of farms and irrigated fields and pasturage and, of course, storms can be seen as moving events across the landscape.
I've always seen the outdoor and indoor murals, though different, as closely related. Actually,
historical precedents for interior architectural illusionism are far greater, more diverse, and refined. My interior works are extremely different from the exteriors and the intentions and details more elaborate.