A crew of contractors from Vault Fine Art Services dismantled and transported Charles Umlauf’s “Three Muses” from Centennial Park to the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum on Monday.
The bronze sculptures relocated as part of a temporary loan while the Dell Medical School is under construction.
Charles Umlauf, a highly-regarded and prolific 20th century artist, was a professor in the College of Fine Arts at UT from 1941 to 1981.
“Umlauf is an internationally known artist, and we were very proud to have him as a professor here at the University,” says Rhonda Weldon, a spokeswoman for the UT-Austin. “During his tenure he was commissioned to do ‘The Muses,’ and they were originally placed on the roof garden of the Flawn Academic Center. It wasn’t until 1984, after the Centennial Park had been dedicated, that they were moved over to Centennial Park.”
The “Three Muses,” which were commissioned in 1963, are just a few of the many pieces that Umlauf completed for the university. Others include “Torchbearers,” which is on display in front of the Flawn Academic Center, and “The Family,” which is located on the south side of the Graduate School at the McCombs School of Business.
The sculptures will be available for public viewing while they are at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden. They have never been preserved or even cleaned, so they will undergo restoration, too. According to Umlauf Museum Coordinator Samantha Elliot, the sculptures will undergo the same restoration process as the sculptures that have a permanent home at the museum.
“After [we install them], we have to restore the lips, the noses and toenails,” Elliot says. “Those kinds of things have been painted over the years, but after we restore that, we’ll have to restore that to its original patina, and then we’ll do a conservation process that includes washing and waxing the sculptures. We do that to our own sculptures, and that just protects them from the elements and also enables people to touch them with their hands, especially blind and visually impaired visitors, without the oils affecting the piece and the patina."
Elliot sees this as a chance for them to showcase the museum and to also keep the “Three Muses” in prime condition so they can be seen by many future generations of Longhorns.
“This has kind of provided us a unique opportunity to really show the community that we are the place for his sculptures to come back to,” Elliot said. “We would rather have them on display than have them in storage somewhere. Especially with our relationship to UT and his relationship to UT in the past, it made a lot of sense to us to open up our grounds to these pieces to be taken care of and to be continued to be on display while the Dell Medical Center is being built.”
According to Weldon, the “Three Muses” will not be returning to their original spots, but rather will be incorporated into the Dell Medical School district in a yet to be determined “green space.”