Strawberry Mansion is an 18th century house in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park that has been designated as a historic site and museum, and for the last few years has been undergoing major renovation.
As part of the project, the mansion’s formal banquet room will be painted with new murals on all four walls. Philadelphia artists Dot Bunn, who I recently profiled, and Patrick Connors will attempt to grace the room’s walls with murals as the mansion’s original owner, Judge Joseph Hemphill, might have commissioned for himself. They will include scenes of the area around the mansion and in 18th century Philadelphia proper, as well as the docks where his porcelain business was likely involved in shipping.
Bunn was pleased to be given the opportunity to work on the project, but when she was confronted with the space, she realized the the scope of the work was even larger than she had anticipated, requiring not only a considerable amount of work, but lots of paint as well.
Bunn contacted the owner of the paint company whose oil colors she uses, Stephen Salek, of Vasari Classic Artist Oil Colors (see my recent post), who generously agreed to donate the paint required for the project.
It was by Salek’s invitation that I attended the launch event for the project and had the opportunity to see the murals in their preparatory stage and meet Bunn and Connors.
The event was basically a social and promotional one, marking a milestone in the restoration of the mansion and kicking off the mural project. I found it amusing that some of those involved in committee for the restoration were encouraged to pick up a paint brush and, like multiple shovels ceremonially breaking ground for a construction project, contribute the first brushstrokes.
The walls have been prepared by covering them with canvas, given a base color by Bunn, as though on a regular canvas prepared for a landscape, on which the preparatory sketches (printed copies on board, above, top two) have been enlarged and roughed out in graphite.
I’m hoping to follow the project along, checking back part way through the process and when the murals are finished.
I think it gives a bit of insight into how some historic murals may have originally been commissioned, prepared and carried out.
(Image above, bottom: Stephen Salek, Dot Bunn, Patrick Connors)