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The Murals


Modern Surgery and Anesthesia

Modern Surgery and Anesthesia

Modern Surgery and Anesthesia

Pursuit of Happiness

Recreation in Harlem

Conserving the Murals

The Artists

The Controversy

The WPA in Harlem

The Murals | Conserving the Murals

The Harlem Hospital Center's WPA murals include mosaics, frescos, oils on plaster, and oils on canvas attached to the wall. Over the years, they have suffered considerable damage. In 2005, the hospital initiated conservation work on five murals. These murals are being reinstalled in the lobby of the New Patient Pavilion.

The following murals have been restored:

  • Pursuit of Happiness (1937) by Vertis Hayes (eight panels): Stabilization and cleaning of paint and plaster; detachment of painted canvas from plaster and attachment to supporting panels; removal of painted wall sections and installation in steel framing system; infilling and inpainting of areas of loss and abrasion.

  • Recreation in Harlem (1937) by Georgette Seabrooke (108-square-foot oil-on-plaster): Reinforcement of wall structure; consolidation and infilling of plaster; cleaning and stabilization of paint; division and removal of wall blocks; installation in steel framing system; integration of large areas of paint loss with a consistent sheer color; inpainting of pinpoint loss without attempting to restore mural to its original appearance; inpainting of seams between wall blocks; application of protective coating.

  • Magic in Medicine and Modern Medicine (both 1940) by Charles Alston (each is 17-foot by 9-foot arched oil-on-canvas): Cleaning and stabilization of paint; shearing of top coat of plaster from wall; removal of canvas panels from detached plaster; attachment of canvases to supporting panels; infilling and inpainting of areas of loss and abrasion; application of varnish if necessary to achieve desired sheen or integrate areas of inpainting.

  • Modern Surgery and Anesthesia (1936) by Alfred Crimi (250-square-foot fresco): Stabilization and consolidation of plaster; cleaning of paint; removal of some overpaint to balance non-original paint with original work; removal of plaster and installation in steel framing system; infilling and inpainting of areas of loss or abrasion.


In April 2010, Harlem Hospital Center began preparation to install glass panels on the façade of the Hospital's New Patient Pavilion. These glass panels would reveal the images from the three selected panels of Vertis Hayes' "The Pursuit of Happiness."


The Modernization Project Construction Team lowers the first of 429 glass panels into place on the New Patient Pavilion's Curtain Wall enclosure. Each glass section includes a digital image of a section of the Mural, enclosed between two sheets of specially treated glass.


The dimensions of the glass panels range in size, with the larger sections at approximately 10 feet x 4 1/2 feet and the smaller sections at 4 1/2 feet by 2 1/2 feet.


The specifications of each panel are designed to align with the Pavilion's steel supports.


The specifications of each panel are designed to align with the Pavilion's steel supports.


By the end of the first week, the construction team had completed the installation of half of the glass panels on the first level of the Curtain Wall.


As the second week of work continued, the construction team hoisted a glass panel to the second level, placing it in the upright position in preparation for installation on the New Patient Pavilion's Curtain Wall.


Each glass panel was attached to the crane's trapeze and hoisted to the appropriate level of the New Patient Pavilion Curtain Wall.


Glass panels were then guided into position by the construction team and crane operator in preparation for installation.


By the end of April, the second level had been completed and images of "The Pursuit of Happiness" began to emerge from the glass panel design.


Aerial view of the New Patient Pavilion's Curtain Wall as the fourth level of mural glass was installed


The New Patient Pavilion's Mural Curtain Wall was completed in the first week of June. This wall includes 429 glass panels depicting three images from "The Pursuit of Happiness."


Harlem Hospital Center New Patient Pavilion Curtain Wall, June 2010


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