Famous Mural Removal – Hyde Park Chapel, London – Part 2

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Well, it was a whirlwind of activity last week: I was asked on Tues. by the History Department of the LDS Church to be at the Hyde Park Chapel in London England for a 3 pm meeting on Thurs. to discuss the removal of the mural. That meant, of course, taking the red eye flight on Wed. (btw, I enjoyed taking New Zealand Air for the first time, non stop from LA to London).

When coming out of Hyde Park, appears the Albert Memorial and the Victoria Albert Concert Hall

I made it, just in time, to my meeting on Thurs. by cutting through Hyde Park (a really nice park) and the first thing I saw when coming out of the park was the Victoria Albert Concert Hall and the Price Albert Memorial… I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

The Patient under examination, as I discussed in Part 1, is the famous mural that was a focal point in the Mormon Pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair in NYC.

Man's Search For Happiness Mural by Robert Oliver Skemp

In 1962, Elder Harold B. Lee of the Council of the Twelve was appointed Executive Director of the Mormon Pavilion and he gave the charge that a film depicting  “the three great questions of life: where we came from, our purpose and reason for being here upon the earth, and what happens to us after death” be produced. Many of us remember the film that was made for the fair, Man’s Search For Happiness. The mural depicts the
phases of life illustrated in the film.
Visitors who came through the pavilion at the World’s Fair commented. One wrote, “For about a half hour after we left the theatre, we hardly spoke to each other. …“My wife broke the silence by asking: ‘Can you believe it?’ “I knew what she meant by ‘it.’ ‘It’ referred to your Gospel and the message we got from the movie. My response—‘Yes, I can believe it and it is a wonderful thing to believe …’

During and after the Fair, the mural was used in films, filmstrips, teaching illustrations and PR images internationally and, perhaps was one of the best recognized images of the church in the 1960′s and 1970′s. Once the fair was over, it was mounted on a wall in the Hyde Park Chapel. It has been there ever since.

Testing the possibility of removal, once I got there, brought a sigh of relief to me: I could see that I could make happen the separation of the canvas from the wall in a safe and cost effective way… and that brought a sign of relief from the people who sent me to London! As I said in the first blog post, prior to seeing the mural first hand, I had no way of knowing if this project was going to cost $10,000 or $250,000 by simply hearing descriptions over the phone. I mean, by goodness, I wasn’t even given the right dimensions of the mural. It turns out it was 1/2 the size I thought it was going to be.

So, given the positive results from my testing, it was decided to remove the mural immediately, while I was there. It was a 2 day process. Once again, as I said before, the mural was removed because of the impending extensive renovation involving demolition. The LDS History Department is gratified that events have worked out to save such an important and fondly remembered mural from destruction.

Here is the video I shot of the removal of the mural from the wall.

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About Scott Haskins

Scott M. Haskins has been in the field of professional art conservation since 1975. He studied and worked doing mural and painting conservation in Italy until 1979. He headed up the painting conservation laboratory at Brigham Young University for the BYU Permanent Art Collection and the LDS HIstorical Department until 1984. He works from Santa Barbara, CA providing art conservation services nationwide. He is also the author of "How To Save Your Stuff From A Disaster."
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26 Responses to Famous Mural Removal – Hyde Park Chapel, London – Part 2

  1. Lindsay Goggins says:

    Thanks for this info and interesting video. I love this mural and its message about the purpose of life.

  2. William Jackson says:

    The message of this painting represents so much happiness and a special time in my life. Please accept my heartfelt thanks for the wonderful job you did of saving this treasure

  3. Jaime Gonzalez says:

    I can’t tell you how pleased my wife and I are that you are saving this mural. It has a special place in our hearts and judging from the other comments, we are not alone.

    • Ross Pooley says:

      My wife & I were married in Hyde Park chapel & one of the highlights was having our photo taken in front of this wonderful painting.
      I cannot believe that it is being taken away from the chapel!
      The chapel has always been an ensign for the church & in the past many people were introduced to the gospel using the picture, showing films in the film theatre & being well recieved by full time missionaries.
      I am pleased that it has been saved at the last hour! Why was it even considered to destroy it in the redevelopment – will there be anything else in its place to invite non members to find out more?

      • Scott Haskins says:

        Ross, Thanks for your heartfelt comment. Tt is shared with many other people who love this mural. I’m not sure what will replace the mural but the reason it was removed was because of the extensive renovation that would turn the Hyde Park Chapel into a quasi visitor’s center, seeing that the chapel’s location is “ground zero” for the 2012 Olympics and the visits of millions of visitors. So, my guess is that the curved wall it came off of doesn’t exist any more and, in fact, the changes to the design and function of the building could have been modified greatly… but I don’t know exactly what has happened.

        Stay in touch with this blog and sign up for updates in the side bar. If you like to hear about the preservation of historic LDS art… this is the only place (to almost quote Brigham Young).
        Scott

  4. Janice Malcomb says:

    Watching you remove the mural was fascinating. To see a pro at work made the job look easy but I can tell everyone, it was NOT easy. I was there! Then, it was so special to find out that you are the brother of my good friend, Lynne. Amazing.

  5. Meagan Sanders says:

    I can’t tell you how pleased I am that you have saved this mural! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  6. Damian Winston says:

    Your professional handling of the needs of several departments, committees and contractors was most excellent and appreciated. Even though this “task” of mural removal was last minute, because of you it went smoothly and efficiently. Thanks.

  7. B. Compton says:

    Thanks for your excellent work in London to save this mural. Your ability to leave right away on a last minute basis to go do the work was most appreciated by our department.

  8. Jason Carter says:

    When I heard they were going to remove the mural when they were remodeling for the 2012 Olympics, I didn’t understand why not keep such a great mural for the new displays? But I guess it is a bit dated. Its such a great mural though! So many memories!

  9. William Brown says:

    As a missionary in Italy during the same time, I want to echo what the person in Japan wrote. I have always held this painting in a special place in my heart for the same reasons.

  10. P. Anderson says:

    When I was in Japan in the mid 70’s this painting was the illustration for many of the pamphlets and instructional materials we used and loved. I would say that it was an important illustration for a gospel teaching that increased our faith. So, this was a major thing you have done to save this treasured image.

  11. baker says:

    Thank you for saving this mural! It means so much to me as I was a member of this ward for many years.

  12. Sister Ann Marie Atkinson says:

    I want to add my heartfelt thank you to the others, for saving this painting. Richard J. Marshall, the vice-president of Evan’s Advertising, at the time this painting was created, was my bishop and boss. I have been saving the stories behind the work that was completed during the fifties, sixties and seventies, for the past 40 years. I have been a missionary in the Church History Dept. for the past two years. Richard was instumental in commissioning and working with Harry Anderson, Tom Lovell, John Scott and the others. I was in London six months ago and because of time constraints, could not make it to the Hyde Park Chapel. Thank you for bringing the painting closer to me. I live near Logan, Utah! Please add me to you list of those who want to keep up with what you are doing. Another part of my mission besides the saving of stories is interviewing living LDS artists or those, not of our faith, who have done work for the church. I would love to have the opportunity of interviewing you, for the purpose of saving your history for the church archives. I could do this either in the Church History Library in Salt Lake or in Santa Barbara. I am in that area usually twice a year. I work in the same dept. as Brad Westwood, Scott Christenson, Robert Davis and Rita Wright and I have also spent quality time with Vern Swanson. I have been so very impressed with your work. Warm Regards- Ann Marie Atkinson 435-563-5486 atkinsonam@ldschurch.org or atkinsonam@aol.com

  13. Paul Frank says:

    Very interesting project and that the corporation would send you to London to do the work. Kudos.

    • Scott Haskins says:

      Thanks Paul. The final resting place for the mural will be, after we do the art conservation treatments, at BYU Idaho.

  14. Peter Knight says:

    Why can’t the mural be kept in England?

    • Scott Haskins says:

      It belonged to a corporation and they didn’t have a venue for it in England. Thankfully it was worth keeping and they decided to go to the effort to save and transport it back to the US (where it originated) where it will be on display at Brigham Young University Idaho.

  15. Vern Swanson says:

    Did this REALLY come down to the wire for saving it? I mean, were they really going to destroy it?! This is such an important iconic work with deep doctrinal ties to people’s feelings. I attended the Hyde Park Chapel for several years. Bravo Scott for getting this done! Well done, History Dept. for stepping up and protecting the wonderful work of art.

  16. Heather Hatch says:

    Scott, it was good to recently meet you when I was in Santa Barbara visiting friends! I loved seeing this video. Hyde Park chapel is where I was baptized and I remember this painting well.

  17. Brent says:

    Scott,
    Church History is grateful that you would travel to London to remove this mural that was so prominent at the Church’s exhibit at the NY World’s Fair. Thank you for working with us on this and other painting conservation efforts.

  18. Lynette Mills says:

    Thanks Scott for doing what you do and for sharing it with all of us who are interested in art restoration. Especially Mormon art! Love it!

  19. Frank & Sharon Stewart says:

    Frank and I enjoyed your video very much. Good work!

  20. Brad says:

    Thank you for your excellent service and expertise being used for helping to preserve such important works of art. Yes, a painting from 1964 is not antique nor historically important like early mormon art. But look at what it represents and the part the artwork has played in the growth of the LDS church during those 20 years. Its almost an icon and I, for one, am very pleased that it has been saved.

  21. Kirkman & Nanci Gardiner says:

    Scott, we loved watching your interesting work in the video! It was fun for us to recognize this very famous painting (that you removed from the Hyde Park Chapel). Thanks for sharing!

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