Sunday, August 09, 2015

Finding San Francisco’s Lost Frescoes at the Art Institute

One afternoon in 2013, Heather Hickman Holland, the San Francisco Art Institute’s director of operations, stepped out of her office and walked down the hallway in the institute’s oldest building.
She noticed what she thought were spiderwebs in the corner. When she took a closer look she realized that the dust was outlining shapes of pictures underneath the paint. She had discovered a series of frescoes from the 1930s painted by students. As art movements changed they were likely painted over to make room for new student work.

Restorers have manually removed as many as 20 layers of paint to get to the frescoes that lie beneath the institute’s whitewashed hallways. One of the pieces they are working on restoring is “Marble Workers” (below) from 1935. The artist is Frederick E. Olmsted Jr., who created many social realist murals in San Francisco, including part of the “Power” piece at Coit Tower and “Theory and Science” at City College of San Francisco.

Photo: C/o San Francisco Art Institute
Via San Francisco muralist and former Art Institute student Thomasina DeMaio

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