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Stefan Dedecek , Conservator of Paintings, Murals, and Polychrome Surfaces, recently performed the conservation on two murals by I.M. Taylor at the Wood County Courthouse located in Bowling Green, Ohio. While Conservator Dedecek performs many paintings conservation treatments at our lab facilities just outside of Cleveland, the McKay Lodge Conservation team also travels throughout the nation to perform mural conservation projects from mural restoration to mural relocation treatments.

The Wood County Courthouse murals feature scenes from Ohio such as Fort Meigs built to defend what is now Perrysburg, Ohio from the British during the War of 1812, and the Wood County Oil Field at the turn of the 20th century.

The Artist: I.M. Taylor

I.M. Taylor
Isaac Moore Taylor and his wife, Mary Adelia Hoffman Taylor

The artist, Isaac “Ike” Moore Taylor , filled many roles: oil man, councilman, mayor, painter and political cartoonist during his lifetime. Taylor was born in western New York in 1844. His interest in art began in early childhood, and he continued creating drawings and paintings throughout his life. As a young man, he became intrigued by the Drake Oil Well, the country’s first well drilled expressly for oil and located only a few miles from his home.

Taylor traveled west, delving into this new industry, eventually forming a partnership that drilled a well in 1886 in what is now Findlay, Ohio. In 1887, Taylor moved to Bowling Green, Ohio and while remaining involved in the oil business, also became politically active. He served several terms on the city council and was elected mayor of Bowling Green in 1910.  His two passions though – oil drilling and oil painting- stayed with him all of his life.

The Wood County Courthouse Murals

His two most notable works are the murals on the second floor of the Wood County Court House in Bowling Green, Ohio.

Oil paint mural by IM Taylor of Fort Meigs
Fort Meigs 1813

One mural depicts Fort Meigs, a strategic fortification built on the banks of the Maumee River to defend the Northwest Territory from the British during the War of 1812. Rebuilt many times, most recently in 2000, the fort still stands to educate the public about an America from 200 years ago.

Oil paint mural titled Wood County Oil Field 1904 by I.M. Taylor
Wood County Oil Field 1904

The second mural combines the two passions of the artist. Here he uses oil paint to render an expansive oil-field in Wood County during the oil-boom days. Wooden oil rigs tower over the landscape; one of them spewing a gigantic plume of the legendary ‘black gold’ while a train with oil cars heads for the horizon.

The Mural Conservation

Scaffolding in front of I.M. Taylor's mural
Scaffolding in front of one of I.M. Taylor’s murals

The masonry walls where I.M. Taylor’s murals are painted had a thin layer of cement-like plaster on them. The artist applied his oil paints directly on this surface and the coarse texture of the plaster has given the murals a rough texture as well.

Cigarette and cigar smoke, dirt and grime accumulated over the years and became embedded into the texture. Seasonal temperature changes caused cracking of the plaster, lifting of paint, and even some areas of loss. A past intervention also left a tough coating on the surface that had begun to yellow, further complicating treatment.

After 115 years, the Wood County Courthouse murals were in need of cleaning, consolidation, and revarnishing. Working from scaffolding, Conservator Dedecek used conservation adhesives and heat to set down and readhere lifted paint and solvents to reduce the discolored coating.

Detail of an oil rig in one of I.M. Taylor's murals
Detail of WOOD COUNTY OIL FIELD showing a cleaned area to the right of the oil rig and a still dirty area to the left

For the next mural conservation steps, Dedecek completed fills in areas of loss, carefully recreating the texture. These now filled losses were inpainted to match the colors and forms of the surrounding painting. As a final step, a varnish was applied; this helps protect the mural as well as resaturate the overall colors which had faded. After the conservation of the Wood County Courthouse murals, the murals are once again ready to be enjoyed by the public. Dedecek was also interviewed by BG Independent News about the mural project which you can more about here.

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