Britton, a student of Grant Wood, painted the library’s
two murals, “Exposition” and “Holiday,”
during the summer of 1940. His murals are an excellent example
of the Midwestern style of art popular during the 1930's.
(To see beautiful murals of a totally different style, visit
Seerley Hall on the campus of the University of Northern
At that time,
the building was Waterloo's recently completed post office.
Britton painted the frescoes in three months under a U.S.
Treasury Department program. More than 50 such murals were
produced in Iowa under this program during the years just
before World War II.
The murals were
not immediately popular with the people of Waterloo. The
figures in overalls in "Exposition" did not seem
to resemble the college-educated Iowans who were even then,
taking over farm management. It was also felt that the art
did not adequately portray the size and scope of the Dairy
Cattle Congress in Waterloo. Some critics objected to "Holiday"
on the grounds that the group of men, women and children
seen in the park suggested peasants and the proletarian
art of Soviet Russia.
$2,500 for his work in the Waterloo Public Library. The
Nebraska native originally went to the University of Iowa
to study dentistry. While in Iowa City he became more interested
in art, and under Woods, he began collaborating on murals.
He worked on several Public Works Administration (PWA) and
Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects and was technical
director for the WPA's art program. He did frescoes for
a number of public buildings in Illinois as well as for
the Bureau of Mines building in Washington, D.C.
See also Look Beyond the Shelves: Historic Exhibits at the Waterloo Public