One of the most fascinating mysteries of Radnor's history has to do with a long lost work of art. A few recent installments of "From the Archives" (scroll down to the bottom of this page) examined the 1950s-era murals at the old Radnor Middle School, painted by two students to educate on the history of Radnor. The group of four paintings were found on the west wall of the Radnor High School (which later became Radnor Middle School) auditorium, set within two-story-high Gothic arches.
It had been forgotten by most, including the School District, that the 1950s murals were not the first paintings to grace the auditorium walls. In early 2000, 1939 Radnor High School graduate Charles Cajori, then a 78-year-old painter of much acclaim, came back to Wayne for a show of his work at the Wayne Art Center (which had been founded decades before with the help of Cajori's mother). Cajori, whose work is in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, wondered about the murals he had painted for the auditorium 61 years before. The question stunned Radnor. There was no trace of the old panels Cajori had painted on, and it was determined that the 1950s murals were painted on new material. The mystery gained some press attention in the Inquirer, but nothing about the murals has come to light since. That is, except for these few detail photographs found in the school archives.
The panels shown here were evidently both near the top of the auditorium's Gothic arches, given their shape. The artwork is excellent, especially considering that it was executed by a high school senior, though the imagery is a bit disturbing. The image of soldiers wearing gas masks, for example, is reminiscent of the Diego Rivera mural "Man at the Crossroads," symbolizing the growing specter of Fascism on Europe and the world.
If anyone has more information on the lost murals, please contact the Radnor Historical Society!
- Greg Prichard, Radnor Historical Society