Excelsior Springs Museum & Archives

Count Edmond DeSzaak

Count Edmond DeSzaak is best known in Excelsior Springs for painting the murals on the end walls in the main lobby of the museum.

Count DeSzaak was stranded in Kansas City during World War I about 1919. Commerce Bank in Kansas City hired him to paint on canvas a reproduction of "The Angelus" and "The Gleaner", both originally painted by Jean-Francois Millet. They paid him $1200. The paintings were ready to hang when the bank (now the museum) was remodeled in 1920. The paintings were never varnished over, consequently time has faded and dimmed the colors.

The Count was born in Budapest, Hungary. He studied art at some of the greatest educational and cultural centers of Europe, including Vienna, Paris, and Rome.

"The Angelus"

"The Gleaner"

Returns to Retouch His Twenty-Year Old Murals

from Excelsior Springs Newspaper (article not dated)

Twenty years ago, he painted the massive yet delicate murals which decorate the Clay county state bank - having just completed the huge task of painting murals in the Cleveland courthouse - to see about renovating his old handiwork.

He is Count Edmond deSzaak born in Hungary, educated in Europe, but now an American. The Count is a typical, volatile Hungarian, American in dress, he is still Continental in manner. The adjective "charming" in its true source, might be used to describe him. The Count was born in Budapest, Hungary. He studied art in some of the greatest educational and cultural centers of Europe including Vienna, Paris, and Rome. Today, quite prosaically, his address is 1305 Pleasant, Des Moines, Iowa.

The murals he painted in the Clay county bank are on canvas. Despite their massive size, the delicacy of Count Szaak's touch is evident to the observer. They were never varnished over, consequently, time has failed and dimmed their colors. He is hoping to go over them, retouch them, "renovate" their delicate tints and shadings. Today's generation in Excelsior Springs may have an opportunity to see a real artist at work.

The Count's only objection to painting murals is that the builders rush him. They have a deadline to meet, but it is difficult, the artist finds, to scale his work to the time limit. His work on the Cleveland courthouse entailed several large panels and the entire circumference of the huge rotunda.

"And before I was through," the Count mourned, "the smoke and soot had already dimmed my first paintings."

Count Szaak, interested in the controversy stirred by Thomas Hart Benton's murals in the Missouri statehouse, examined them. His comment was singularly laconic.

"Every artist has his own way of interpreting," the Count shrugged, "Me - I paint so that everyone may understand - because not always will there be a guide around to explain."

In July 2009, two paintings were donated to the museum in memory of Levis and Francis Tharpe of Oklahoma. They were originally purchased by Levis and Francis Tharpe in 1931.

"Evening Sun"

"Evening Sun" was painted in 1929. It is a dark picture of the sun shining through the trees. There are three big trees in front with lots of grass. The wood frame is painted gold. It measures 25" tall and 35" long.

"Sunset in Wyoming"

"Sunset in Wyoming" was painted in 1929. The painting has dark colors with trees with sunset background and blue mountain hills. The wood frame is painted gold. It measures 25" tall x 35" wide.

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Last Updated 9/22/2014

Excelsior Springs Museum & Archives © 2014

Last Updated 10/15/2009