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Thursday April 17, 2014
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Herman Bock, Decorator

 

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Working at Wisconsin's capitol in 1996, Koenig was cleaning and replicating painted surfaces when he found five or six signatures entwined in a floral design high on a wall. He realized they were all women's names and thought, "Wow-what a great thing." When the wing where he was working was built, from 1910 to 1913, it would have been unusual for women to be involved in such a project.

It is easy to imagine why Herman Bock would have wanted credit for his work on the Law School's reading room. The coffered ceiling, made of plaster hand painted to look like wood, is gorgeous. The recessed square panels are painted in a fleur-de-lis pattern in blue and ivory. The beams that run across the ceiling are richly decorated in bright colors and have winged shields at their midpoints. Figures of griffins-mythical winged lions-hold more shields at the points where the beams meet the walls.

The four Law Quad buildings were erected between 1923 and 1933. The library was the third completed, in 1931. It looks and feels like a Tudor Gothic cathedral, except that the entrance is on the low, long north side rather than the high, peaked east or west end. There's even stained glass in the windows-though instead of depicting saints, these feature the seals of other universities with law schools.

Except for routine maintenance and repair, no work had been done on the reading room since it opened. Small lights lit the desks, and light streamed in from the stained-glass windows higher up, but the area between was gloomy. The painted ceiling had darkened with age.

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