A landscape painting by German artist Paul Weber is now displayed in the lobby of Warrenton Town Hall after the artwork and its frame were restored by Mumford Restoration of Raleigh.
The landscape is one of four paintings donated by Warrenton resident Katherine Pendleton Arrington to the former John Graham High School in 1926. She donated a fifth painting, a portrait of local educator John Graham by William Steene, in 1929.
Arrington was instrumental in establishing the North Carolina Museum of Art.
The paintings were removed from John Graham High School in the early 1980s when John Graham and Norlina High School were consolidated to form Warren County High School.
The landscape was among four of the paintings that had been stored in the basement at the school system’s Central Office since that time.
The Warren County Arts Council initiated the restoration process, partnering with Preservation Warrenton to approach the Warren County Board of Education in 2020 to ask how the paintings could be removed from the Central Office basement, restored and placed in locations that would bring them back into public view.
The same year, an ad hoc committee consisting of Linda Byrd and Victoria Lehman, representing the board of education; Richard Hunter and Robert Davie representing Preservation Warrenton; and Charla Duncan and Lamont Dozier, representing the Warren County Arts Council, was formed to determine what should be done with the paintings.
The board of education later approved loaning the paintings to the town of Warrenton for display at Town Hall. Because the Plummer Hook and Ladder Museum is housed in the Town Hall building, the structure has been constructed to museum standards for temperature, humidity control and security, making it an ideal place to display the artwork.
In September 2020, the board of education granted permission for Mumford Restoration to take the first step in preserving the paintings by restoring the Weber landscape. The cost, which Davie noted was just under $4,000, was covered by Preservation Warrenton.
Bernard Mumford and Jeff Percy of Mumford Restoration came to the Warrenton in October 2020 to pick up the landscape painting from the Central Office. Mumford noted at the time that the restoration process would include restoring areas where paint had chipped, cleaning the canvas, removing the old varnish covering the painting and replacing it with a new, conservation-quality varnishing formula. He added that the frame would be restored in a process that would involve filling in chipped areas, replacing old repairs, gilding the new material and cleaning the existing gilding on the frame.
Mumford anticipated that the restored painting will just need a maintenance cleaning every 10 years and re-varnishing every 20 to 30 years.
Now on permanent loan to the town of Warrenton, the painting is displayed with a Jacob Holt Greek Revival mantel in the Town Hall lobby at 113 S. Bragg St., Warrenton. The Warren County Arts Council will provide signage for the landscape painting and the mantel.