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Cool Things - Artist's Sketchbook

Worrall's sketchbookHenry Worrall wasn't born in Kansas. He wasn't a trained artist, either. That didn't stop him from using art to promote his adopted state.

Worrall was born in England in 1825, and immigrated to Kansas in 1868. As a young man, he devoted his time to music, but took up oil painting after settling in Topeka. Soon, Topekans knew Worrall for his portraits and caricatures. He gained national attention for his painting entitled Drouthy Kansas, which exaggerated the state's climate and record-breaking crop production. The painting encouraged people to come to Kansas for a prosperous life.

Drouthy Kansas was the beginning of Worrall's career as the state's unofficial public relations champion. Harper's Weekly and Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper published his illustrations without giving him credit. In 1876 Worrall designed the Kansas exhibit for the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition.

Page from Worrall sketchbook

The artist's ability to promote did not go unnoticed. The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway (ATSF) hired Worrall to illustrate The Rocky Mountain Tourist, a magazine used to attract visitors to the mountains. He also drew images of Kansas that the railroad put in pamphlets encouraging people to settle and farm in the state.

Worrall used the sketchbook shown here in 1882, while he traveled across Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico for the ATSF. It seems more personal than a mere collection of preparatory drawings or paintings. The book resembles a journal, giving the viewer a glimpse of the open prairie, the rolling hills, and early settlements as the artist saw them. Worrall titled the book "Record of the Skies," which is reflected throughout the first few pages. Each day he painted a small depiction of the sky at a certain time, noting it beneath the image.

After a few weeks of travel, Worrall expanded from the horizon and began painting landscapes, buildings, figures, and animals. Worrall noted the spring day when grass first appeared by writing "Green!" below the painting. His sense of humor comes through in paintings of a man-sized jackrabbit and a horse pulling a wagon, with "Ya Wild Horse!" written below. The second half of the book is filled with photos of Worrall's family and Topeka locations, as well as preliminary sketches for railroad pamphlets.

Worrall worked for the railroad until 1893, and continued to paint for pleasure for a few years before giving it up entirely. He died in Topeka in 1902. Several of his paintings and two sketchbooks, including this one, are housed in the collections of the Kansas Museum of History.

View other pages from Worrall's sketchbook

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Entry: Cool Things - Artist's Sketchbook

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: April 2009

Date Modified: December 2014

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.