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Article by: Barbara Hood
Hollis Holbrook painted the large mural in Smathers Library at a time when the Library’s windows were regularly opened and smoking was allowed in the building. Upon its creation in 1953, it became a focal point of the room, above the main entrance that was added the same year. Painted in egg tempera, “History of Learning in Florida,” was designed specifically for the space and in harmony with its surroundings. Holbrook said about the mural, “the colors and the way it relates to the room are most important.”
Sixty years later those colors will once again shine. Rustin Levenson and her staff of professional conservators at ArtCare, Inc. will be in the Smathers Library Grand Reading Room October 19-23 removing layers of dirt, dust, and other accretions that have settled on the surface and muted the mostly tones of reds, oranges, and browns. Visitors will have the rare opportunity to view the detailed work as the mural is cleaned inch by inch in public view. Visitors will also have the chance to chat with the conservators at a public presentation on Thursday October 22.
Reproductions of the original sketches for the mural, which are held by the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, will be on display in the Grand Reading Room, as well as photos of campus from the 1950s.
Born in Natick, Massachusetts, Holbrook was a faculty member of the University of Florida Art Department and its first chair. For more than 40 years he inspired and taught art students at UF. In addition to “History of Learning in Florida,” he painted murals in post offices and libraries across the country. He died in 1984.
Original article: http://cms.uflib.ufl.edu/News/October2015