The 27-by-33-foot mural, by artist James Wall Finn (muralist to the Gilded Age Elites), depicts a sky of billowing cumulous clouds warmed by rosy light. During the 2014 structural integrity inspection prompted by a fallen rosette, engineers hoisted platforms close to the 52-foot-tall ceilings of the Bill Blass Catalog Room and the Rose Main Reading Room.
While the engineers determined that the ceilings needed minor reinforcements, a fine arts conservator determined last year that the original 105-year-old mural in the Catalogue Room needed intensive repair: sloppy patch jobs, discoloration, and loss of original paint had severely damaged the piece. (The mural in the Rose Main Reading Room was restored fully in 1998.)
The NYPL commissioned New York–based EverGreene Architectural Arts to recreate the mural on two massive pieces of canvas.
“The Catalog Room sky mural holds its own as a singular mural but also connects with the three murals in the Rose Reading Room, opening up the ceilings with space and light,” Bill Mensching, Director of Murals at EverGreene Architectural Arts, explained. “Our goal as artists was to honor Finn’s concept, and complete the series of murals that are timeless in their clarity, movement and gradations of color.”
EverGreene has restored, conserved, or recreated artwork and decorative ornament on The Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, United Nations Building, Manhattan Supreme Court, and other historic New York City structures. In all, these replicas will cost around $45,000.
Both the Reading Room and the Catalogue Room are expected to reopen this fall, and the canvases will be placed over the Finn’s mural in the next few months. Check out the time-lapse video below that shows the mural recreation from start to finish: