In 1956, Rico Lebrun visited the campus for a one-man exhibition of his work organized by Peter Selz, departmental gallery director and chair of Pomona's art department. It was during this visit that Lebrun mentioned that he would like to paint a mural in Frary Hall close to Orozco's masterpiece. Eventually, after Selz persuaded art patrons Donald and Elizabeth Winston to sponsor the work as a gift to the college, Lebrun received a commission for the mural. He began preliminary work during his residency at the American Academy in Rome in 1959. Then, in July of 1960, Lebrun arrived at Pomona and began to paint.
As he thought about and worked on the mural, the issues of scale and color occupied Lebrun most. "This is a far more magnificently proportioned hunk of masonry than I had remembered," he wrote to a friend, describing his progress, "now looking immense and now just tame, nice and manageable. The main trap to watch out for was scale, neither too minute, else the forms would rattle, nor too mammoth, else it would choke." Lebrun wanted to evoke feelings of increased stature with his Genesis, not overpower and diminish the spectator. The artist also had to contend with the fact that the mural would be viewed from three different levels: from the ground upon entering the loggia (an open-air, covered gallery), from the top of the steps leading to the dining hall, and from the small balcony in the facing wall. He wrote: "All the figures have this multi-viewpoint. A single viewpoint on any figure wouldn't go. The figures all have a barrel-like shape to repeat the tremendously curved shape of the arches. If I didn't do this, they would look too small, like a pebble in a great box or like whistling a song instead of orchestrating it."
Color, or the lack of color, was also important. "The wall...has been done in black and white," he wrote, "There is nothing else around but grey travertine and whitewashed huge supporting walls. The range from velvet, dense black thru a sort of grey the rockbass have in their scales; silver, sinister sort of; and some cream white and chill white really crash around like the first boomy crack of a storm. Feels good to be doing it grand and melancholy and visceral, vociferous as I am." This monochromatic range produced a work of dramatic starkness that departs significantly from mural tradition. Although Lebrun never recorded his reasons for using only black pigments on the white wall, several possibilities suggest themselves, including a desire to set his work apart from the intensely colorful Prometheus just inside the building and the fact that somber monochrome suited the mural's tragic themes. Lebrun also acknowledged the influence of Picasso's Guernica, 1937, the extraordinary black and white canvas depicting the bombing of the town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. In Guernica, like Genesis a passionate protest against the atrocities of war, Picasso clearly demonstrated the visual impact of a monochromatic palette at monumental scale.
The artist finished and signed Genesis on December 4, 1960, and a dedication was held the following February. The acclaim was immediate. One New York Times critic wrote that, except for the works of Orozco in Guadalajara, there were no frescoes of comparable quality in this hemisphere; another placed the work within the grand tradition of Renaissance mural painting. Lebrun gave his own assessment in a letter to Donald Winston. Genesis, he wrote, was "the best and most conclusive work I have painted to date...I think that Orozco and I gave Pomona two formal statements in the grand tradition, perfectly suited to the place and carrying a message necessary to the audience which frequents that place."