Saturday, July 4, 2015

History of the Uptown Murals

The two auditorium murals inside of the Uptown Theatre have been some of the most iconic aspects of the building's design since 1939, and were originally designed by artist Gustav W Krollmann. Born in Vienna in 1888, he trained as a portrait painter at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna before becoming an artillery officer in the Austrian Army during World War I. While serving, he gained experience painting portraits of the general staff of the 12th Army Corps.

Krollmann immigrated to the U.S. in 1923 and found himself in the Twin Cities and by 1931, he was an instructor at the Minneapolis School of Fine Arts (now called MCAD). In the late 1920s, he worked as an artist for Northern Pacific Railroad's promotional travel campaigns. These spectacular images were created to attract visitors to the railroad's scenic locations and are what Krollmann is best known for. He also painted the 'Old Faithful Geyser' watercolor for Yellowstone National Park in 1925.

Krollmann was called upon to create the Uptown murals in 1939 once an extensive renovation was planned. His plan was to adapt fibre boards and tiles with acoustical correction efficiency for decorative purposes, and used acousti-celotex as his material. One mural shows the Catholic fathers gazing upon the future city - Father Hennepin, Marquette, Nicollet, and LaSalle - and the other shows the Father of the Waters with water sprites that symbolize the lakes of the city.

As an intriguing experiment, Krollmann outlined the murals in black light paint. They then became illuminated in a greenish glow when the main auditorium lights turned down for the film. Unfortunately, these special lights were very expensive and did not last very long, so this was quickly abandoned only a year or two after the murals were put up for display. 

Krollmann died in 1962, and the further history of the murals becomes hazy and strange. It is unknown if the murals eventually fell into disrepair, but a renovation in the early 1980s replaced them with less-detailed re-creations. What's peculiar is that the walls on which they first resided on were reversed, with the Catholic fathers now on the right side and the Father of the Lakes on the left.

A small engraving on the right wall originally listed Krollmann as the creator of the original murals along with the name of the recreation artist, but when the Uptown was again renovated in 2012, this engraving was half-covered up by the addition of a staircase. All that can be made out now of the artist's name is 'Mary Sue Wall-.' The last name was 'Wallace,' if memory serves correctly, but this is not for certain.

Krollmann's original Uptown murals can be seen on this very blog over HERE. Krollman's bio was taken from the University of Minnesota's Center for Austrian Studies.

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