Even if the name Perry Nichols escapes you, and it likely does, the work does not. The Woodrow grad's art surrounds us even now, some two decades after his death -- at the Inwood and Lakewood theaters, in the lobby of The Dallas Morning News, at the Dallas Museum of Art for starters. A member of the legendary original Dallas Nine, along with the likes of Jerry Bywaters and Alexandre Hogue, Nichols had his hand in a little bit of everything, everywhere, for decades. The estimable Perry B. Nichols Collection is housed at SMU, which offers a complete bio from which I've lifted this excerpt:
The mural as it looked 50 years ago, more or lessCourtesy City of Frisco
During the 1930s and 1940s he painted murals for theatres and businesses. He first began painting murals for the Public Works of Art Project in Dallas. In 1936 the Baker Hotel opened in downtown Dallas, where his murals of classical figures of Greek mythology were showcased in the popular Mural Room. By 1940, Nichols had executed thirty murals, in cooperation with Dallas decorator Eugene Gilboe, for theatres and public buildings in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Mexico, and Mississippi. The most notable of those in Dallas were for the Arcadia, Inwood, and Lakewood movie houses.
In 1941, Nichols returned to the Baker Hotel where he painted a sixty-two foot panel depicting Texas plants and animals in the hotel lobby. In 1947, Nichols painted five large murals for the Sears department store on Ross Avenue in Dallas depicting the history of the agriculture, oil, and cattle industries surrounding the city. A year later, he executed a large mural depicting a modern version of Mexico since the days of the Revolution of 1910 for the Lone Star Gas Company Exhibits Building at the State Fair of Texas. But Nichols is probably best remembered for the immense mural he completed in 1949, assisted by eight other artists, in the lobby of the Dallas Morning News Building, using his son, Christopher, as the model for the image of a newsboy.
A decade later, a fledgling suburb called Frisco would hire Nichols to create a mural for its community center. Its title: The Game, a "dynamic abstract composition based on an abstraction of fast-paced basketball game" according to an Arlington-based eBay auctioneer who goes by the moniker "wpa_fan." The mural's been gone for years: Frisco Park and Rec officials tell Unfair Park today that bits and pieces of it disappeared long before the rec center was razed a few years ago. But an 8½"x40" gouache mural study remains, and that is what's for sale on eBay for the low, low buy-it-now price of $2,400.
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And it is a good deal: Noah Fleisher at Unfair Park's cross-the-street neighbor Heritage Auctions says Nichols's 1964 The Owl went for $4,331.88 in December 2009. In '06 Heritage also attempted to auction off his famed Mary Nell -- so named for Dallas artist and the future Mrs. Perry Nichols, Mary Nell Brooks -- but it never reached the reserve of $30,000. Many thanks, incidentally, to John "Jed" Doshier, the Parks Project Manager for the city of Frisco, who happened to have the photo of the community center stashed away on his computer.