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IU Art Museum Conservation Lab Opens Doors to Public for Benton Murals restoration

Posted in: Indiana University Comments

On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, from now through the end of August the IU Art Museum will allow the public to observe the ongoing conservation effort of two of the famed Thomas Hart Benton Murals at the museum's painting laboratory.

The conservation lab will be open to the public from 2-4 p.m. Groups of four or more can call 812-855-1926 to make special arrangements.

The murals were originally created for the Indiana Hall at the 1933 Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago in 22 panels that stretched 250 feet, encircling the exposition.

When the Century of Progress Exposition closed, Benton's panels were stored in a horse barn at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Herman B Wells, early in his tenure as IU president, arranged for the state to give the murals to IU in 1940. Today, 16 of the panels are in the lobby of the IU Auditorium, two are in Woodburn Hall and four are in the old University Theatre.

Benton (1889-1975) was a Missouri native who studied art in Paris and New York. When Indiana officials commissioned him to produce the murals, he delved into study of the state's history and traveled across Indiana to get a sense of Indiana's people and geography. "History was not a scholarly study for me but a drama," wrote Benton, who was featured on the cover of Time magazine in 1934. "I saw it not as a succession of events but as a continuous flow of action having its climax in my own immediate experience." 

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