With more counties than most other states, Missouri posed a unique challenge for Billyo O’Donnell. Setting out to create an outdoor painting on location—en plein air—for each of Missouri’s 114 counties plus the city of St. Louis, this award-winning artist devoted years of travel and logged more than 150,000 miles to capture the many textures of a multifaceted state.
Painting Missouri is an extraordinarily rich collection of scenes and seasons along the highways and byways of the Show-Me State. Turn these pages to find a farmer driving a combine in a Ray County cornfield or the Benedictine convent in Nodaway County or mist rising from snow at sunrise in Prairie State Park. Here are scenes both familiar and intimate: farmhouses and barns, Lover’s Leap in Hannibal, and the view of St. Louis from the roof of the Cathedral Basilica. O’Donnell even captured Pierce City before a tornado destroyed the town in 2003—and painted Canton from a vista that another twister had newly opened.
Accompanying the paintings are essays by Karen Glines, who provides essential historical information about the counties, from interesting facts about their foundings and names to the stories behind their courthouses. Drawing on extensive research in many local historical societies, Glines shares what she learned about the early histories and present concerns of the state’s diverse regions, including local anecdotes, Civil War stories, and insights into the roles of Native Americans in regional history. Additional comments by O’Donnell relate some of his experiences while creating the paintings.
Paintings and essays combine to create a masterful volume that immerses the reader in the passion that both artist and writer feel for the state’s beauty. “In Missouri,” observes O’Donnell, “I have found all that an artist needs, and beyond this, I have found an even deeper connection to place.” For all who pick up Painting Missouri, that connection will surely resound.