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The Beautiful, Nightmarish Murals of the New Orleans Train Station

The Beautiful, Nightmarish Murals of the New Orleans Train Station

When you travel, it isn’t unusual to see murals depicting highlights of local history. But for most cities, those ‘highlights’ don’t include fantastic and nightmarish scenes where ghostly figures swoop down to carry away disease victims, or the four horsemen of the apocalypse loom over dying soldiers on a Civil War battlefield.

New Orleans isn’t most cities.

 

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That’s the outside. But inside, you’ll find the history of New Orleans – in the form of a 2,166 square-foot mural that shows 400 years of life and death in the Crescent City. The work – in four sections, showing Exploration, Colonization, Struggle, and Modern Life – features colorful scenes that change from triumphant to macabre depending on how closely you examine them. A worm eats through a field of corn, leaving a trail of rot behind. Well-dressed men point accusing fingers as the capitol crumbles. Grinning, skeletal figures lurk in the corners.

It’s beautiful. And awful. And perfect for New Orleans.

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In the ‘Exploration’ panel France, England, and Spain compete to exploit the new world. The panels show men being lured to bloody deaths by phantom images of wealth, with Native American civilizations caught in-between, as threatening ships approach.

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‘Colonization’ shows pioneers fighting Native Americans, while Franciscan friers teach others how to work in the fields. Chained slaves are imported, the Acadians are transported to Louisiana, and noblemen in masks bow to each other as New Orleans is traded back and forth between France and Spain and then finally becomes part of the USA.

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‘Struggle’ starts with the newly American New Orleans becoming a battleground in the War of 1812. A growing American population divides the city and the civil war divides the country as skeletal figures, representing yellow fever epidemics, hover above. And cheerful, colorful carnival-goers parade through the streets.

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‘The Modern Age’ starts with a hooded Klansman looming over citizens. Black sharecroppers work in fields, education and medicine advance, and scientists triumphantly work on the atom bomb.

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They were painted as part of a New Deal project by an artist named Conrad Albrizio, who taught at LSU and left murals that can still be seen across Louisiana. He specialized in frescos like these, where paint is applied directly to a wall’s wet plaster. And despite needing some restoration after Katrina, they’ve held up well for the past 60 or so years.

 

 

                           This post is part of the #WeekendWanderlust linkup and Travel Photo Thursdays. 

 

2 Comments

  1. I’m a big fan of railway stations but I’ve not seen one like this before. Vasco da Gama station in Lisbon Portugal is full of story scenes made in vibrant tiles, but this one is amazing.
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  2. This is extraordinary. I have never heard about these murals before but I can see why they are a must visit. When you read about history, you cannot appreciate expressions, feelings and emotions. On a painting (fresco in this case), you get a better appreciation of the effects of certain events.

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