In 1951, Conrad Albrizio (American, 1894–1973) received a commission to paint murals in the New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal. Albrizio’s frescos, considered his most monumental project, depict the history of Louisiana in massive panels with four themes: The Age of Exploration, the Age of Colonization, the Age of Struggle, and the Modern Age. In them, he sought to reflect the dynamic spirit of Louisiana’s history through interactions between figures, but also emphasized design by integrating angular blocks of color. The sketches, currently on display at LSU MOA, illustrate his two-year design process.
For the Passenger Terminal murals, Albrizio added encaustic methods to the fresco technique of painting on wet plaster. He applied heated wax to the painted wall surface to create a sheen that complements the marble of the terminal building. James Fisher assisted Albrizio. The Union Passenger Terminal, which opened to the public in 1954, replaced five depots that had been scattered around the city. These murals have weathered many a storm, and despite needing restoration following Hurricane Katrina, still exist at the same facility on 1001 Loyola Avenue more than 60 years later.
Albrizio was born in New York City in 1894 and studied architecture and painting in New York, Paris, and Rome. After coming to New Orleans in 1920, he worked as an architectural draftsman on the Louisiana State Capitol. He was subsequently commissioned to complete six frescos at the Capitol, which was his first major mural commission. Albrizio joined the faculty at Louisiana State University as its first painting professor in 1936, where he taught art until his retirement in 1954. Albrizio died in Baton Rouge in 1973.
Check out the New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal sketches, on view at LSU MOA through the end of January in the Gill Hamilton gallery, then go follow your NOLA to the finished product. You should experience it at least once in your lifetime.
Where else can you see the legacy of Conrad Albrizio? Visit the Capitol Park Museum to examine the mosaic mural “Health and Happiness,” installed after being restored and moved from its original home at the New Orleans Regional Mental Health Hospital in Algiers. Stop by Allen Hall on the LSU campus—those carefully restored frescoes are by a grad student of Albrizio, Roy Henderson, and depict an homage to the professor in one section of the piece.