Mural restoration in The Denver Post

A long-lost Shakespearean mural restored at the University of Denver

For more than 80 years, the celebrated Colorado artist John E. Thompson‘s luminous ArtNouveau Shakespeare mural languished under countless layers of cheap paint slapped on by stage crews who often had no idea that the obliterated mural ever existed.

The mural, which decorates the University of Denver’s Little Theatre proscenium, was on display for just over a year after its debut in 1929. Then the university’s new theater director had it covered with black paint. Thompson, who taught at DU’s art department, was livid but powerless.

DU Mural Restoration Denver

Mural restoration project for John Edward Thompson master work of decorative art. Dan Jacobs DU Curator. DU inside the Margery Reed Building

Over time, paint built up like geologic sediment, effectively making one-dimensional fossils of Lady MacBeth, the archbishop of Canterbury, the three crones and other familiar Shakespeare characters. Thompson’s mural was all but forgotten.

Then seven years ago, DU curator Dan Jacobs learned that Thompson had once painted a mural in Margery Reed Hall, which houses the Little Theatre. After scouring the building without luck, he thought of the theater itself.