Behind the Scenes, Conservation, Getty Conservation Institute, Getty Research Institute

New Online: The Ernest A. Long Outdoor Mural Image Archive

A new image archive of L.A. murals has just been made available online.

As a Multicultural Undergraduate Intern working at the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) this summer, I worked with colleagues in Field Projects and the Information Center on the project to make the Ernest A. Long Outdoor Mural Image Archive accessible to scholars and the interested public.

The archive consists of images of public murals, mostly in Los Angeles, but also extending to Northern California, down to San Diego, and even as far away as Santa Fe, New Mexico, documented by mural enthusiast Ernest A. Long between 1973 and 1983.

Ghosts of the Barrio mural by Wayne Healy / photographed circa 1970-1974

Ghosts of the Barrio by Wayne Healy. Photographed ca. 1970-74. Located at Ramona Gardens in Los Angeles, CA. Ernest A. Long Outdoor Mural Image Archive, J. Paul Getty Trust. © Ernest A. Long III Trust and Wayne Healy

Long, a Los Angeles attorney with an enduring interest in the arts, began taking extended walks and in the process discovered a new hobby—photographing the murals that were just beginning to appear on empty walls across the city. The mural movement of Los Angeles was in its infancy in the early 1970s, with artists and communities joining forces to beautify their neighborhoods and create a sense of civic pride.

Over two decades, Long managed to capture more than 500 images of mural art being showcased in the streets. In 2007, he donated digital copies of his images to the Getty Conservation Institute for the purpose of supporting the Institute’s research into mural painting conservation.  More recently, Long granted permission to the Institute to make the images available to the public for viewing at the Research Library at the Getty Research Institute and online.

Consulting with artist Judithe Hernandez and Joe Rodriguez of Mechicano Arts Center.

Consulting with artist Judithe Hernandez and Joe Rodriguez of Mechicano Arts Center.

During my two months at the Conservation Institute, I conducted extensive research on the mural movement in Los Angeles, made contact with scores of artists from all over L.A. and across the country, and obtained permission from artists in the archive to make these images available to the public free of charge. I even helped organize a day-long tour to visit murals in East L.A., downtown, and mid-city.

GCI staff enjoying a tour of St. Elmo Village with co-creator and director Roderick Sykes (center).

Conservation Institute staff enjoying a tour of St. Elmo Village with co-creator and director Roderick Sykes (center).

The artists’ overwhelming positive response to this project was astonishing and reinforced the notion of the value of the collection. At this point, we’ve identified and received permission from nearly half the artists in the archive, and we’re waiting to hear from and locate other artists who can provide information about their work.

Strother Martin Monument mural by Kent Twitchell, 1971 / photographed in 1973

Strother Martin Monument by Kent Twitchell (1971). Photographed in 1973. Located at Fountain Ave. and N. Kingsley Dr. in Los Angeles, CA. Ernest A. Long Outdoor Mural Image Archive, J. Paul Getty Trust. © Ernest A. Long III Trust and Kent Twitchell

This project was a huge undertaking, and it couldn’t have been possible without the contribution of the artists represented in the collection, or the team of great people I’ve come to know at the Getty.

The Ernest A. Long collection will serve as a public resource for documentation of the Los Angeles mural movement. I also hope it will offer an interesting glimpse into an important aspect of L.A.’s cultural history through the perspective of an individual who loved art and just needed to take a walk.

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  1. James Kelly
    Posted September 28, 2011 at 11:28 am | Permalink


  2. Posted July 4, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    This is brilliant, you should also look out for the work of the London Mural Preservation Society:

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  • […] shared the link to this archive of Los Angeles mural photography from Ernest A. Long. There is an introductory article on the Getty education blog and the collection contains 200 images, all taken between 1973 and 1883. Like London it seems that […]

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      #ProvenancePeek: July 31

      Every art object has a story—not only of how it was made, but of how it changed hands over time until it found its current home. That story is provenance.

      This small panel by Dutch master Gerrit Dou (photographed only in black and white) is now in the collection of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. It was sold to American collector Robert Sterling Clark, an heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune, in the summer of 1922.

      How do we know this? Archival sleuthing! A peek into the handwritten stock books of M. Knoedler & Co. (book 7, page 10, row 40, to be exact) records the Dou in “July 1922” (right page, margin). Turning to the sales books, which lists dates and prices, we again find the painting under the heading “New York July 1922,” with its inventory number 14892. A tiny “31” in superscript above Clark’s name indicates the date the sale was recorded.

      M. Knoedler was one of the most influential dealers in the history of art, selling European paintings to collectors whose collections formed the genesis of great U.S. museums. The Knoedler stock books have recently been digitized and transformed into a searchable database, which anyone can query for free.

      Girl at a Window, 1623–75, Gerrit Dou. Oil on panel, 10 9/16 x 7 ½ in. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts

      #ProvenancePeek is a monthly series by research assistant Kelly Davis peeking into #onthisday provenance finds from the M. Knoedler & Co. archives at the Getty Research Institute.


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