Monday, March 26, 2012

Painting Over “Pastoral California”

The following is an excerpt from a work-in-progress called The Town I Live In: A History of Fullerton.

Dr. H. Lynn Sheller taught English and History at Fullerton College in 1934, at the time the mural “Pastoral California” was painted on the side of Plummer Auditorium. It was a large fresco done by artist Charles Kassler during the Great Depression, and was funded by the United States Works Progress Administration.

“I watched him [Charles Kassler] put the mural up there,” Sheller recalled, “I would visit him day after day as he was working...the feature of a fresco is that the paint is mixed in with the plaster, thus it is supposed to be permanent.”

In 1971, when Sheller was interviewed for the Fullerton College Oral History Program, “Pastoral California” had been painted over for 32 years. He remembered its subject matter, however: “It depicted early Spanish life in this area--the recreational activities, the social life, women washing clothes together, the community life of people of that time.”

It was the subject matter of the mural that caused Fullerton City Trustees to vote to paint over the mural in 1939. “It wasn’t until we had a group of trustees in here who were negatively inclined, that it was painted over,” Sheller remembers. When asked why it was painted over, Sheller said, “Some people felt it was vulgar or gross in some way. It simply showed the Mexican women as they were probably attired at that time. They were very bosomy women. I don’t think that we would feel that there was anything wrong with it. I never felt there was.”

Reflecting upon the incident, Sheller told the interviewer, “The whole story of that Board of Trustees really ought to be told sometime, but it’s the kind of story you don’t ordinarily tell, I guess. Plummer didn’t include it in his history; he was too much of a gentleman.”

The mural would not be restored for another 26 years, in 1997, at a cost of about $80,000. “Pastoral California” is now available for all to see, and to judge for themselves whether it is “vulgar” or “gross.”

pastoral california mural fullerton Pictures, Images and Photos

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