October 29, 2022 | Last updated Jun 8, 2023

Terence Duren, Shelby’s Famous Artist

Terence Duren’s journey to becoming one of Nebraska’s leading artists began at age 6 during a battle with polio.

"The Arrival of Mail by Packet Boat" by Terence Duren. Post Office mural, Brownville, NE

Terence Duren (1907-1968) was a leading Nebraska artist from the post-World War II period. Duren, who lived most of his life in Shelby, is most widely known for his regionalist works, which drew on his rural Nebraska upbringing. He is one of a group of Nebraska artists, including John Falter and Grant Reynard, whose illustrations were a significant portion of their output.

Duren began to paint when he was stricken with polio at age six. To occupy their bedridden son, his parents gave him crayons and a tablet. In an interview shortly before his death, Duren said he realized then that he would be an artist.

Duren graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1929 and studied at the Fontainebleau School of Art in France and the Kunstgewerbe Schule in Vienna. The European schools specialized in mural painting, and in the 1930s Duren was best known as a muralist. Duren served as an instructor at the Cleveland Institute of Art from 1930 to 1941 and taught at the Art Institute of Chicago and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Duren’s career and reputation reached a zenith in 1944 when one of his paintings was chosen for Portrait of America, an exhibition which opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and then toured to eight museums across the country.

Among his other projects, Duren designed sets for an opera company in Cleveland, as well as the sets and costumes for a marionette production of Pyr Gynt at the New York World’s Fair (1939-40). He was later an ardent supporter of the Brownville Historical Society and its effort to restore Brownville.

Image (above): “The Arrival of Mail by Packet Boat” by Terence Duren. Post Office mural, Brownville, NE

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

You May Also Enjoy

Why John G. Neihardt was named Nebraska Poet Laureate in 1921

Why John G. Neihardt was named Nebraska Poet Laureate in 1921

Emigrants along the Trails at Chimney Rock

Emigrants along the Trails at Chimney Rock

Marker Monday: Easter Blizzard of 1873

Marker Monday: Easter Blizzard of 1873

About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

History Nebraska Education

Learn more about the educational programs provided at our museums, sites, and online.

History Nebraska Programs

Learn more about the programs associated with History Nebraska.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Listen to our Podcast

Listen to the articles and authors published in the Nebraska History Magazine with our new Nebraska History Podcast!

Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.