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SFAI "Lost Fresco" Suzanne Scheuer, Molly Lambert, Mortimer Fleishhacker, Jr.

From the SFAI Library and Archives:

[this is a long SFAI historical nugget, but a good story with wonderful archival scans, PLUS: The Chestnut Street doors are open and one can visit this "lost fresco" ---email for a private tour!]

In the summer of 2020 conservator Molly Lambert and crew restored a 1934 mural at SFAI near the Film Department that had been painted over at some point in the early 1940s, thanks to support from Save America’s Treasures, a federal program established in 1998 to preserve nationally significant historic properties and museum collections.

While photographic documentation exists for some the frescoes that were created at SFAI and later painted over, this particular mural was a mystery that revealed itself only as the conservators began removing layers and layers of wall paint, slowly uncovering a colorful crowd scene full of figures in Roman togas and Egyptian headdresses, with a panpipe playing satyr off to one side.

At first this seemed to be a fanciful depiction of Ancient Rome, but the figure on the right peeking out from behind the wall gave it away with his modern-day glasses–this is not Ancient Rome but a contemporary Roman-themed costume ball. When the lower right hand corner was uncovered it revealed the name of the artist and the date of the work: The signature was that of student Suzanne Scheuer, the artist responsible for the fresco titled Newsgathering at Coit Tower. The fresco was dated 1934–clearly not by coincidence, this was the same year that SFAI sponsored a huge Ancient Rome-themed party at San Francisco’s Dreamland Auditorium, one of a series of annual all-night costume balls that the school put on in those years. Scheuer’s fresco seems to place the party not at Dreamland, but in an imaginary extension of the hallway where it is painted, with painted arches that mirror the physical arches to the left. Some of the figures in the painting seem recognizable as real-world party attendees, such as the New York art dealer Dr. Siegfried Aram (as Nero), Moira Wallace, and the bespectacled Mortimer Fleishhacker, Jr.

1934 Suzanne Scheuer,Newsgathering, Coit Tower

With permission, SFAA is re-posting the emails Jeff Gunderson Librarian/Archivist Anne Bremer Memorial Library has been sending out since March 2020. Please enjoy this magnificent archive.


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