1st president good as new at West Elementary
George Washington is back at West Elementary, looking better than he has in… oh, 116 years.
As far as anyone knows, it's the first time that the 1895 original portrait by late-19th century artist Charles Craig has ever been touched up.
Victoria Ryan, who specializes in art restoration, brought the oil painting back to the school March 14. The work had been in her care for about half a year.
She was greeted by a welcoming committee of school staff and a fourth-grade music class.
Principal Terry Martinez, wearing a tie that featured famous scenes from Washington's life, talked to the students beforehand about the early American leader's life… which was helpful, because not many of them seemed aware that he had been America's Revolutionary War general and first president.
As Ryan and her husband Dave carried the painting in, still in its protective cover, she was trailed by students curious to see what it looked like and what she'd done. After the repaired canvas was unveiled and the students starting leaving to return to class, one was heard to say, “Thanks for fixing it up.”
The $800 repair was funded by District 11.
According to Ryan, who has operated her downtown business, Art Care Services, for 20 years, the painting had suffered from “the dirt and grime of 100 years.” But overall she said she was impressed with its condition, considering it had been open to the air (and potential vandals) until plexiglass was put over it just a few years ago.
The part requiring the most attention was a hole in the background area an inch or so above Washington's left ear. “I had to mend the canvas fibers, then fill it in with paint that matches what's around it,” she said.
Craig, who lived in Colorado Springs, was known for his paintings of Indians. So creating a portrait of Washington was a departure for him. The work, done voluntarily, was timed for the opening of Washington School in 1895. From then on, the artwork stayed with the elementary school, surviving additions in 1955 and 1973 and the razing of the original Washington facility in 1972. When Washington as a school was terminated after the 2008-2009 school year (and the building turned over to Buena Vista Montessori), the painting moved to the new West Elementary, which also became home for students from Washington's attendance area. Also, Martinez had been the Washington principal.
The painting now hangs in the rear of the front lobby at West Elementary.
Westside Pioneer article