AUGUSTA — There’s a mural to this story — a few, actually.

Two authors have published a book that looks at some forgotten Maine-made murals from more than 170 years ago.

The book “Folk Art Murals of the Rufus Porter School: New England Landscapes 1825-1845,” by authors Jane E. Radcliffe and Linda Carter Lefko, was published in March.

“It’s a subject that continues to be interesting,” Radcliffe said in an interview. “There are still so many murals out there to be discovered.”

Radcliffe and Lefko will give a presentation on their research into historic Maine murals at 6:30 p.m. tonight at the Maine State Museum. Admission is free.

The book explores the history of Maine murals as seen through the work of Rufus Porter and his nephew, Jonathan D. Poor.

Radcliffe and Lefko said they knew they shared an unusual interest in the history of murals.

So, one weekend in 2008, they decided to compare notes.

“I remember thinking we had a lot of information that isn’t out there, and we really wanted to bring people up-to-date on the research,” Radcliffe said. “We finally decided, ‘Let’s do a book.’ “

Maine murals have been much in the news lately. Gov. Paul LePage ordered a 36-foot work taken down from the state Department of Labor building in Augusta in April, drawing national media attention. The three-year-old mural — with 11 panels showing scenes of Maine workers — was deemed “too one-sided” in favor of unions and soon became a political flashpoint between labor advocates and the LePage administration.

What the conflict didn’t address was the rich history of mural making in Maine.

“In the early 1820s, Rufus (Porter) traveled down South and started doing portraits. In 1825, he published an instruction booklet in how to make murals. He believed anyone could do it,” Radcliffe said.

Unlike earlier murals, which stressed European backdrops, Porter celebrated rural American landscapes.

“There are wonderful details like a farmhouse scene with little manure piles and laundry hanging in the front yard — just wonderful little details,” Radcliffe said.

Porter’s interest in murals faded as he turned to writing and publishing.

He founded the magazine, “Scientific American,” in 1845 but his apprentice and nephew, Jonathan D. Poor, continued to create murals.

“We really want to give Jonathan Poor credit. He really developed his own style,” Radcliffe said.

She explained that even though some murals are not signed, it’s often possible to detect the artist based on certain clues. For example, Porter would often include fern-like bushes in the foreground while Poor preferred to draw sumac.

Porter was also more apt to work in monochrome, a style where everything is depicted in various shades of the same color.

Radcliffe and Lefko collaborated on their book, which contains 400 color illustrations, over e-mail, but the co-authors met several times in person to hammer out ideas.

Radcliffe, of Hallowell, is a partner in Museum Research Associates, a firm that specializes in the documentation of historical collections. She is also a board member of the Rufus Porter Museum in Bridgton.

Lefko resides in New York and is an artist, teacher, and scholar of historic decorative arts.

“We’re both very pleased with the book and hope people will enjoy it and find it useful. We don’t want people to think about murals just in the Department of Labor,” Radcliffe said with a laugh.

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