The Role of Biochemistry In Plant and Animal Nutrition
John Steuart Curry Murals Virtual Tour

Views: Hector F. DeLuca Biochemistry Building Murals by Colin Tucker

These murals in the hallway and seminar room of the Hector F. DeLuca Biochemistry Building were made possible through the cooperation and support of the Brittingham Trust Fund and painted by John Steuart Curry. They depict the beneficent effect of biochemistry on life.

In the Hallway

In the shafts of light are symbolically shown healthy human and animal life. In the shadow is depicted life suffering from various nutritional deficiencies.

To the left of the large panel is shown the family suffering from pellagra and nutritional deficiencies due to sub-marginal living conditions derived from the poor eroded land. Specifically shown is the butterfly mask of pellagra on the face of the little girl and the effect of rickets on the small child. The locust tree with the sickle hanging on the limb is characteristic of such impoverished soils. It is one of the few trees that can fix atmospheric nitrogen and thus maintain itself under such surroundings.

The panel on the right of the stairway depicts both healthy and nutritionally deficient animals. Specifically shown are chickens suffering from rickets, a young pig suffering from lack of iodine, and a calf suffering from rickets. At the top, health and vigor possessed by well-nourished animals is the theme. At the top stands Chanticleer announcing the birth of the new day of biochemistry.

On the panel to the left of the stairway are shown plant forms suffering from soil deficiencies and various diseases such as tobacco mosaic disease. In the light is shown the healthy corn, potatoes and tobacco, growing in a well fertilized soil.

In the Seminar Room

On the large wall at the left of the doorway is shown a typical southern Wisconsin landscape depicting strip farming and various soil erosion control methods with background of a typical view of the Wisconsin River between Sauk City and the Mississippi. To the right in the square panel is shown the sun, the source of all energy. One phase of this solar energy is the ultra-violet lamp as is indicated in the lower left hand corner where the Vitamin D activity of milk is increased by ultra-violet radiation. This panel depicts the situation that exists in the physical world where solar energy is imparted to plant materials as illustrated in the ripening fields and ultimately becomes the energy for all animal life. This energy may be released as in the case of the fire at which the Native American woman is cooking her food. Next is shown the mining of coal and the industry built around the use of stored energy as associated with carbon.

On the opposite end wall is shown the nitrogen cycle symbolized by the spectrum, and the fixation of the element, nitrogen, by the associated action of the leguminous plants and root nodule bacteria. The nitrogen thus fixed becomes food for animals and as shown on the right hand part of the panel becomes food for humans.

Read more at the Public Art at UW-Madison website

Demolition to Restoration: The Conservation of John Steuart Curry's
Biochemistry Murals