All areas of paint loss – whether from removal of the over-painting or from the stretch marks caused when the murals were peeled from the walls – were then filled with a white, gesso-like material. At the end of this process, each mural appeared, in varying degrees, to be covered with bright white streaks looking something like lightning bolts. Itís only to these white areas that new paint was applied in a process called “in-painting.”
Bob Lodge describes the process as labor-intensive and requiring continuous concentration. “The in-painter must match color, texture and the original handling of adjacent paint,” he said. “It is work that demands continuous focus, sitting still and sometimes concentrating on one small area six hours a day.” The primary responsibility for this painstaking work fell to McKay Lodge conservator Stefan Dedecek. His considerable skill and infinite patience over the course of 18 months produced a stunning result. By spring, 2005, Millet’s “Mail Delivery” was, at last, meticulously restored.
Murals Individually Framed
When originally installed in 1911, “Mail Delivery” appeared as a frieze along the top of the Postmaster’s office walls. Because the space for which they had been created no longer existed, it was decided that, after restoration, the murals should be individually framed and presented as a series. The murals will “appear separate, in a line, whereas before they all joined and worked their way around the walls,” explained Bob Lodge. Hanging them individually with space between them will allow the murals to appear more even in their tone and brightness, he added.
The Bonfoey Gallery, fine arts dealer and Cleveland’s premier framing establishment, provided the custom framing. According to Richard G. Moore, the firm’s owner and president, walnut frames with gold metal leaf facings were sent to McKay Lodge and were installed on each restored panel. Secure in their new frames, Millet’s murals were at last ready to return to the building from which they had been removed 50 years earlier – although this time in an entirely different setting.
McKay Lodge worked closely with the GSA and Cleveland’s Westlake Reed Leskosky, architect for the courthouse renovation, over several months to determine the best location for the murals – a space both easily accessible to the public and large enough to display all 35 scenes. Paul E. Westlake Jr., managing principal and lead designer of the firm, said the locations chosen involved an “exhaustive technical analysis” of light levels, models of the space and arrangement of the murals. “The space thatís been chosen, along with its lighting, palette of colors and materials, will present the murals to best advantage while preserving the historic integrity of the courthouse,” Westlake added.