Texas Historical Commission, Tom Lea Institute release mobile tour dedicated to legendary Texas artist

The Texas Historical Commission recently launched a mobile tour dedicated to the life and work of prolific artist and El Paso native, Tom Lea.  

Texas Time Travel Tours is a suite of multimedia mobile tours created by the THC, featuring narrated history, GPS-enabled maps, photo galleries, short videos, and audio clips. The Tom Lea Trail Tour, created in partnership with the Tom Lea Institute, is the 12th statewide tour added to the platform.  

The tour traverses the entire state, extending from the north in the small town of Seymour to the South Texas chapparal, where Lea authored and illustrated what is regarded as one of the greatest ranching histories ever written, The King Ranch. Thanks to hours of oral history recorded with Lea before his death in 2001, travelers can stand before his depictions of early Texas in 12 different communities, including El Paso, Odessa, Dallas, Waco, Austin, College Station, Galveston, and Kingsville, while listening to the artist himself describe the works.  

Though lesser known during the last years of his life, Lea’s popularity has steadily increased since President George W. Bush displayed one of his paintings of the West Texas landscape, “Rio Grande” (1954), in the Oval Office during his presidency. President Lyndon B. Johnson also hung artwork by Lea in the West Wing of the White House.   

Today, the Tom Lea Institute’s access to primary materials and first-person accounts—including video testimonies of those who knew Lea or have special insight into his works—will bring the artist’s creations to life for new generations of travelers who are sure to fall in love with Lea’s singular vision of Texas. 

View the mobile tour and more info about Tom Lea at texastimetravel.com/tomleatrail.  

About Tom Lea:  

Thomas Calloway Lea III was an American muralist, illustrator, artist, war correspondent, novelist, and historian. Born in El Paso in 1907, Lea’s work naturally gravitated to depictions of early Texas and Mexico, particularly Native American and ranching histories. Later, his experiences as a war correspondent for LIFE magazine opened a new artistic chapter for Lea, whose illustration of a traumatized soldier in “The Two-Thousand Yard Stare” (1944) would become an iconic image of the trauma experienced by soldiers during wartime.