Elmhurst Post Office

There Was a Vision, by George M. Smith, 1938 (Section of Fine Arts)

(Above) Detail images of cleaning tests

(Above) After treatment

There Was a Vision, by George M. Smith, was commissioned in 1938 by the Section of Fine Arts mural program of the Treasury Department. This large rectangular-format allegorical mural scene represents the hopes and dreams of the immigrants and settlers who moved to the Midwest in search of a better life. In particular, it highlights the focus of these pioneers to the farming of the land. As such, this American Scene attempts to speak directly to the situation in which it was painted, the Elmhurst Post Office, as a center-point of a Midwestern farming community.


The mural was in excellent structural condition, but showed numerous visual inconsistencies. The image surface showed general staining, paint splatters and an overall layering of dirt and particulates. There was also evidence of previous restoration efforts to cover minor surface scratches along the lower edge.


In order to return the artist’s original intended vision, the mural was first cleaned of all overlaying films using a mild neutral detergent. Lifting areas of canvas were re-attached to the wall surface. All areas of former loss were filled and retouched to match the original using color- and light-fast Maimeri conservation pigments. A final varnish film was applied to protect the paint surface.