Restoring the Remisoff Murals: Speck by Speck with PARMA Conservation

Welcome to Elizabeth, Peter, Ewa, and John from PARMA Conservation! They arrived February 5 to begin restoring the Remisoff murals.

Ever since Russian émigré Nicolai Remisoff painted the final brushstroke in 1932, Homer, Sappho, Aeschylus, Virgil, Cicero, Xenophon, Diogenes, and Pythagoras (plus four small landscapes painted directly on the plaster over the doorways) have graced the walls of the Rotunda.

It isn’t accurate to call it the final brushstroke, however, because The Poets and Writers of Antiquity oil on canvas murals have needed care over the years to maintain their charm and condition, from cleaning and retouching in 1955 to restoration by The Conservation Center in 1997 thanks to a generous gift from the Friends of Lake Forest Library.

In 2017, buckling and water damage on the Aeschylus canvas led to the discovery that the Library dome was leaking. Once the dome was successfully restored in August 2023, attention turned to conserving the murals.

Through a bid process, the Library Board and Staff selected PARMA Conservation to complete the 2024 mural restoration. Parma has conserved hundreds of historic murals in public facilities in 26 states. One member of the PARMA team even participated in the 1997 restoration work.

The 2024 restoration work began in early spring and will take approximately eight weeks to complete. The Friends of Lake Forest Library are providing a $250,000 grant for the restoration. You are welcome to ask the conservators about their work when they are on-site!

Using chemistry, microscopy, and UV, infrared, and x-ray imaging, PARMA identifies how best to restore each panel. Paintings on damaged walls are partially or completely removed to repair the walls and perform plaster abatement of the canvases. Flaking paint is consolidated (saved) and pinpoint losses, cracks, and other imperfections are filled in. Everything is cleaned and varnished.

With conservation techniques always improving and cleaning technology now at the point of molecular precision, the 2024 restoration promises to bring the murals as close to their original glory as they’ve ever been.

The murals are the last remaining Remisoff artwork available for public viewing in Chicagoland. We look forward to appreciating the murals anew with you this spring and summer!


Celebrate with Us

Remisoff through the Years

1887: Born in St. Petersburg

1918: Moves to Ukraine to flee the Bolsheviks

1921: Moves to Paris

1922–25: The New York years

  • Designs Elizabeth Arden’s beauty salon

1925–35: The Chicago years

  • Designs sets and costumes for ballet companies and the  Chicago Grand Opera
  • Paints and installs murals in Lake Forest Library Rotunda
  • Decorates State Street in Chicago for the Thanksgiving Parade, topping the lamp posts with “70 Mysterious Giant Fantasies”

1938–65: The Hollywood years

  • Designs sets for television and movies including Of Mice and Men, Topper Returns, The Red Pony, and Ocean’s Eleven

1975: Dies in Palm Springs