Sunday, September 14, 2014

Mural Restoration Take Two

In my previous post, I described the initial stages of restoration work on a mural at the First United Methodist Church in Charlottesville , Virginia.  Since the painting was unvarnished and  many of the paint colors had faded, I could only clean a superficial layer of grime.    I met with the Board of Trustees to discuss expanding the scope of the job to include overpainting of the original.  We sat down and several members took out laptops to display the original mural in the collection of the Vatican.  The question everyone was asking was, what would the artist Ada Quarlest (the artist of the church's mural) have done had she been able to view the Raphael restoration of the 1970s  The restoration had occurred forty years after her own rendition  and it was decidedly brighter.  Which vision would suit the congregation ? After some discussion the members decided to pursue the path suggested by the later restoration.  I stressed that such a job would involve extensive overpainting, that we were embarking on something not usually part of the scope of art restoration.  Everyone understood and wanted to go ahead.

Those first days of work  I replaced the oatmeal color of the sky with the cobalt and ultramarine blues  I wondered how members of the church would react.  A change of this magnitude might be a shock.  As the weeks passed and more people stopped by to view the project, I received more and more encouragement.  The art restoration at First United Methodist Church in Charlottesville  proved to be one of the most rewarding I have ever had.  While trying to achieve a semblance of Raphael's palette I was always aware of the energetic paintstrokes and a sense of rhythm that were unique to Ada Quarles.  The restoration became a conversation across the centuries with those two artists.