The Fall of the House of Baldwin

A classic Dixon mural of the American Southwest. – Courtesy photo

By Galen Patterson

Part 3: What happened to the Jinks Room murals?

The Jinks Room in Anoakia was a children’s play room and the artwork inside reflected that.

As mentioned last week, the images ranged from the extraordinary to the bizarre, a stark contrast to many of Maynard Dixon’s other famous works, which commonly depict scenes of the American southwest.

The Jinks Room alone held nine of Dixon murals. The McCaslin family, which owned the property at the time, held onto three murals, the rest were donated to the University of Southern California (USC). The McCaslin family came to own Anoakia after the passing of Mrs. Anita Baldwin herself. One of her employees managed to buy the estate. His name was Lowry B. McCaslin.

When Anoakia was closed, and the owners of the property decided not to come to a preservative stance, the Dixon murals were removed from the property.

The process of removing the paintings was painstaking. They were never meant to be taken down and were applied to withstand the test of time, carefully adhered to the walls which were also meant to last.

An account of the process states: “The murals were executed in oil paint on a heavyweight fabric that was adhered to plaster on the brick and cinder block walls with a very strong adhesive composed of lead white and linseed oil. This adhesive is very strong and stable with a natural biotoxic that protected the paintings from insects.”

To remove them, experts covered the faces on the murals in protective paper. They then donned protective clothing and breathing equipment to limit any bio-interactive damage. Then the pneumatic chisel came out, and they began separating the cloth from the wall. Dried paint fell off in the process from the vibrations of the chisel and the bending canvas.

The paintings were restored to some degree, by making custom aluminum frames and filling in areas once thick with paint, to help restore the texture of the murals. The paintings were then sprayed with varnish to protect them from further damage.

The murals were then donated to the Fisher Gallery at USC. Today they can still be found in the campus tutor center, on display.

Though removal process caused damage to the paintings, they remain to be a legacy of the Baldwin family, and the McCaslin family in turn. According to Stephanie Kowalick, Collections Manager / Registrar at the Fisher Gallery at USC, the McCaslin family had six children, five of which graduated from USC. “These ties I am sure are why the murals ended up here in our care,” she said in an email.

January 23, 2019

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Galen Patterson

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