Fresco

Barse Miller

Fisher Gallery (now Fisher Museum) /Harris Hall, 1940. University of Southern California

According the USC News bureau press release in 1940:

"Beginning on the east and west walls, the figures carry the symbolic story of periods in civilization's history leading to the climax of industry and science depicted over the front doorway. Termed as 'painted music', the fresco is done in equal rhythmic measures. Each is controlled every eighteen feet by a pause as in a musical bar, explained Mr. Miller. Its technique permits the reading of either the figures or the spaces between.

The first figure symbolizes the hand of god releasing 'conscience' to represent culture. Then through periods of biblical history, the Egyptian scribe and communication, the cycle of Christianity, printing, and the Renaissance. The story turns the building corner with navigation and the new world. Leading from the west wall are progressive periods from Norsemen and the Orient through the days of the American frontiersmen, slavery and Lincoln, the Liberty bell, and a symbol of man struggling with the machine age which threatens to overcome him."

The following description appeared in the periodical Architect and Engineer, Feb 194, vol. 140 no. 2

“Mural type fresco by Barse Miller. Done in red and grey brick to blend with the concrete and brick of the outside walls, the fresco depicts the history of culture in civilization. The running story is 185 feet in length, beginning with the symbol of God releasing “conscience” to represent culture and climaxed over the 15-foot doorway by figures representing science and industry. Termed as “painted music,” the fresco is done in equal rhythmic measures. Each is controlled every eighteen feet by a pause as in a musical bar. Its technique permits the reading of either the figures or the spaces between. Following the theme from small sketches, Artist Miller laid out the figures, which are more than life-size, on muslin and then applied the coloring for the correct effect. When applying the finished design it was necessary to work with color on wet mortar to a thumb-print dryness.”

The fresco was cleaned and stabilized by Griswold Conservation Associates in 2013.


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