John Edward Thompson, an early 20th century painter and professor is often credited for introducing modern art to Denver. Thompson spent his formidable years in Paris, surrounded by a confluence of artisans, including Gertrude Stein and George Sand. Eventually driven back to America at the beginning of World War I, Thompson found himself intrigued with the West, and Denver in particular.
In 1929, Thompson was commissioned to paint a Shakespearian themed mural in what was known then as the ‘Little Theatre’ on DU’s campus. In a radical move, less than a year after the unveiling of the mural, then theater-director Walter Sinclair painted over the mural in all black. This polarizing decision incited a scathing reaction from the public. Thompson himself was credited saying “I know now why some men, otherwise law-abiding, sometimes commit murder”.
Time passed, and people forgot. That is until in 2007, when a group of architects planning to renovate the theater and recreate the mural from old archival photographs began removing the black paint and discovered that the mural was mostly intact. This revelation coupled with a substantial fundraising effort paved way for arts conservators and students to begin the lengthy restoration process.
Today, the Reiman Theater in its restored state pays homage to one of the great Denver artists. See the gallery below to view the massive undertaking.
Article written by: Stefan Runstrom
Photo credit to the University of Denver
Special thanks to Miles Graham for presenting this story to the AFC