The Instituto Cultural Cabañas in Guadalajara has invited a team of professional restorers and conservationists to spend three months working on the 52 renowned fresco murals in its famous chapel. Completed in 1939 by Jose Clemente Orozco, the works are considered the best examples of the art movement known as Mexican Muralism.
Visitors will still be permitted to enter the chapel as the six white-suited specialists from Mexico City go about their business, although some of the frescoes may be off limits or obscured by scaffolding.
Alberto Gonzalez Vieyra, the team’s coordinator, described to me in encyclopedic detail the exacting process of fresco painting, an extremely durable technique that dates back at least as far as The Toreador painting on the island of Crete (1500 BC).
The process begins, he explained, with baking natural limestone (cal) in a kiln at a temperature of 1,000 degrees Centigrade to form calcium hydroxide, which is then mixed with water in an effervescent process, forming slake lime (cal apagada).
Fresco painting involves dissolving mineral pigments in water and applying them to a layer of slake lime on the wall while it is still damp.
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