Inside Allen Hall, dozens of murals line the top of the walls, depicting various images of farming, science and education.
“There is no single answer to [what the murals depict],” said art history professor Darius Spieth. “There are multiple parts of it. The primary thing is to show how LSU is relevant to the state with research and agricultural elements.”
These frescoes were painted by University art students in the 1930s, Spieth said. They were all students of Conrad Albrizio, a professor in the school of art. Stylistically, these murals are very similar to Albrizio's work.
Albrizio is famous for the murals in the Union Passenger Terminal train station in New Orleans. He painted them in 1954 and, by this time, his style had changed. They are very colorful and cubist inspired, according to “Art Rocks!” a Louisiana Public Broadcasting television series.
Albrizio also did frescoes in the Louisiana State Capitol that are very similar to the ones in Allen.
These murals in Allen date back to the time of Work Progress Administration (WPA) Art. During the New Deal, the WPA funding became available to construct large-scale art projects. The artists produced work for the public. Mural paintings are seen in post offices, state capitols and public buildings.
Jackson Pollock is an example of an artist that created WPA Art. A common art style at the time was figurative while some included bulky figures. A lot of the work of the WPA included depictions of local history.
According to “The Murals of Allen Hall: Reclaiming a Legacy,” a book designed and produced by the College of Art and Design and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the Allen Hall murals did not have WPA support because they were student projects, but they did have influence from the WPA.
The murals in Allen Hall are not real frescoes as real frescoes are plastered into the wall. These murals are painted on the drywall with oil paints, according to Spieth.
According to “The Murals of Allen Hall”, Allen Hall is very significant to the University's campus. The hall is a part of the library group with Hill Memorial Library and Peabody Hall. Peabody and Allen frame Hill Memorial Library. Allen Hall is also the first building along the western edge of the main quadrangle.
Some murals in Allen are missing today because they have been covered up. Some frescoes were destroyed. In the original murals before they were restored, some frescoes included political content, which included World War II and rise of fascism. There were political comments about Hitler and Mussolini in the murals. An administrative assistant insisted they be removed.
The frescoes on the western end were visible until 1962 when the stairwell in Allen was modified to gain access to the third floor, at which point they were covered by the stairwell addition. Each student had a segment, and were allowed to paint whatever they wanted which led to political content.
For decades, the murals were covered up. A restorer in the 1990s removed a layer of paint and so the murals became visible again. Some of the original artists were still alive when the murals were restored.
In 2001, the comprehensive conservation campaign of the fresco cycle of the 1930s began with the restoration of murals on the interior of each end of Allen Hall. These murals had never been painted over and remained visible, although not as vivid as they once had been.
In 2001, the murals were chemically analyzed with a non-invasive cleaning methodology using dry cleaning followed by deionized water applied to Japanese rice-paper for the removal of the accumulation of surface dust and deposits. Minor repairs were also made, especially near a window where a leak had been present, according to “The Murals of Allen Hall”.
In 2012, when the stairwell in Allen Hall had been reconfigured and the recovery of the murals on the western end began, the removal of the layers of overpainting was carried out by means of a compatible solution applied to small areas.