Birmingham Public Library murals

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The Birmingham Public Library murals are a series of large-scale interior murals decorating the Linn-Henley Research Library, which was built in 1927 as the main Birmingham Public Library.

The murals were executed by Ezra Winter of New York City. The custom-sized canvasses were painted in Winters' studio and brought to Birmingham to be secured to the upper walls in 1929. Winter also painted decorations on the ceiling, blending them with the borders surrounding the murals and uniting the entire room as a single composition.

A series featuring mythological figures was created for what was originally the main circulation room, currently serving as the Southern History Department.

The murals in the main reading room proceed clockwise from the southwest corner:

  • Egyptian - Isis presents a statue of Truth to Rameses II in a scene from the epic of his life.
  • Hebrew - David composes a psalm on his lyre for Saul.
  • Greek - Bellerophon places Athena's bridle on Pegasus.
  • Persian - Sadi meditates in his rose garden.
  • Arabian - Sharazad entertains Shahryar with one of her 1,001 stories.
  • Hindu - Radha is entranced by the music of Krishna
  • Japanese - Ura-Shima Ta-ro releases the cloud of time given him by his wife, Otohime
  • Chinese - Confucius teaches under a tree.
  • Scandinavian - Sigurd rescues Brynhild from Odin
  • Russian - Igor Svatoslavic leads an army
  • German - Faust seduces Margaret
  • English - Lancelot rides on the quest for the Holy Grail
  • American - Pocahontas rescues John Smith
  • French - Alcest attempts to court Celimene in a scene from Moliere's Le Misanthrope
  • Italian - Dante encounters Virgil in the Wood of Error
  • Spanish - Don Quixote and Sancho Panza set off on their quest

The former children's department, to the west, contained scenes from fairy tales.


The murals were restored in 1989 by local artist Lanny Chappelear. The vibrant palette of colors he restored was confirmed by the discovery of two additional murals hidden by a wall which had been added when the children's room was air conditioned. Winter's hand-painted ceiling decorations were replaced with wallpaper reproductions due to the extent of damage to the original plaster.