Sunday, March 28, 2010

Rare Sendak Mural Discovered, Preserved

The Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia has embarked on a landmark conservation project to restore a rare mural created in 1959 by Maurice Sendak, famed author and illustrator of Where the Wild Things Are and 108 other books. With finished measurements of approximately 3’ x 10’, the mural depicts a processional of children and animals, including figures that become familiar in Sendak’s later work, such as Jennie the dog, who leads the parade, and other recurring characters, like a bear and lion. Originally painted in the children’s bedroom of a private New York home, the mural was completed by Sendak just before he became a household name.
Rediscovered in 2005, the mural was donated to the museum by Nina Chertoff and Laurence Chertoff, the now-adult children for whom the mural was painted, and is the only known Sendak mural. The Rosenbach Museum & Library, the sole repository of Maurice Sendak’s original artwork, spearheaded the mural conservation project in 2006. The mural will be permanently installed in the lobby of the Rosenbach in the Fall of 2010.
Mural conservation and restoration is a complex and intricate process. For the safety of the Sendak mural during its removal and transportation from New York to Philadelphia, the entire wall on which it was painted was removed in two thick, plaster-covered masonry slabs, weighing about 800 pounds in total. The conservation process will involve removing all but the outermost layer of the wall on which the mural itself is actually painted to lighten the load when the mural is hung on the wall at the Rosenbach after it is fully conserved. The two pieces of the mural will be reunited within a metal frame. Flaking and loosening areas of the painted surface will be stabilized and areas of loss will be inpainted.
Milner + Carr Conservation LLC, a Philadelphia-based conservation firm, is overseeing the restoration process. Currently stored at a conservation lab, the work will be performed by Cassie Meyers, a mural specialist, formerly of the Getty Conservation Institute. Maurice Sendak will make the final restorative touches to the mural himself. Restoration work continues through the Spring and Summer of 2010.
The entire Sendak mural restoration project is being filmed for a forthcoming documentary by videographer Michael O’Reilly of Portia Productions. The documentary will feature interviews with Nina Chertoff and Laurence Chertoff for whom the mural was created, footage of the removal of the mural, and an inside-peek at the conservation and installation process. The documentary will be available to the public in the Fall of 2010.
Funding for the Sendak mural restoration project is generously provided by the William B. Dietrich Foundation. The Rosenbach will launch a fundraising campaign to complete the project in the Spring.
Maurice Sendak chose the Rosenbach Museum & Library to be the repository for his work in the early 1970s thanks to shared literary and collecting interests. His collection of nearly 10,000 works of art, manuscripts, books and ephemera has been the subject of many exhibitions and has been enjoyed by visitors of all ages. One of the most famous creators of contemporary children's books, Maurice Sendak has challenged the norms of children's literature over time and continues to entrance both children and adults to this day. His innovative techniques and honest portrayal of childhood emotion are celebrated worldwide and have earned him several prestigious honors, including the Caldecott Book Medal (1964), the international Hans Christian Andersen Medal (1970), the National Medal of Arts (1996), a Library of Congress "Living Legend" medal (2000) and the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for Literature (2003).

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