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Painting Out Of Murals – Cleaning off the Overpaint – Art Conservation

The removal process, you can see from the last post, we’re talking about involves the cleaning off the overpaint from the murals that were painted out. This is more than just a cleaning issue: the art conservation and mural restoration of these two paintings will involve removing the overpaint, removing the spackling the painters used to even out the wall (Tacky looking! They didn’t even try to match the texture of the wall), addressing the flaking paint (consolidation and stabilizing it) that was covered over by the paint, properly filling and inpainting losses and then the final protective varnish layers.

I was planning on getting back to this blog the next day after I started the testing of the cleaning of the mural… but here it is several days later. The committee overseeing the survey asked me to add a couple of details to my reports that kept me busier than I had planned.

Tests to restore painted out murals

Testing for removal of overpaint from historic murals

The tests showed me that dissolving off the paint is not possible because the original painting/mural, which was done in acrylic, will dissolve in the process. Also, the texture of the wall complicates the issue of removing the overpaint evenly. Here’s a note for all you mural painters out there: If this mural had been painted in oil and been varnished, cleaning off the overpaint would be MUCH easier (they always paint out murals with acrylic paint) and the mural would be much more easily restored. The technique for overpaint removal will have to be a variation of the technique of swelling the paint then peeling it off. The tests confirmed that this can be done so we are proposing to move forward with the restoration of the murals by Harvey Johnson that were painted out.¬†There are some logistics issues that we also have to consider: using smelly material in the busiest building on campus in the are of the main entrance, working on scaffolding.

So, there you go. The latest scoop on the famous Harvey Johnson murals at TSU. If this project gets scheduled, you’ll be the first to know if you stay plugged into the updates of this blog (click on the RSS button at the top of the page).

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Harvey Johnson Murals Were Overpainted

Murals? What murals?


4 comments. Leave a Reply

  1. Robert Proctor

    What about all of the salt efflorescents coming through the walls?

  2. Scott Haskins

    Hi Rob,
    There isn’t ready evidence that there is efflorescence on these murals we’re testing in this blog post.

    There are two or three murals, out of the 123 that we quickly examined in our collection survey, that have efflorescence. For those that don’t know, mineral salts that look like a soft fluffy dry foam grow out of walls, sometimes, when there is water seepage. Cement, like in some of the walls in the stairwells, is notorious for growing these mineral formations. When they grow, they eat up or push off the paint on the wall’s surface. If there is a mural on the surface of the wall with the mineral salts, then we’re concerned and have to do something about it. In these cases, we are now inquiring with University Facilities to see if past problems have been corrected or if this is a current problem of water seepage. No sense in working on murals if the source of the problem hasn’t been fixed yet..

    • Robert Proctor

      We did cursory exams of these murals on a couple of occasions and believe that the problems stem from efflorescence. Next time you are in town give us a call.

      • Scott Haskins

        Thanks for the invite Rob. I’ll look forward to it.

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