"Nobody could have ever made me paint over [Cajori's] work. I loved his murals. They could have put a gun to my head and I wouldn't have done it," Barnes said from her home in Rosemont yesterday.
Barnes said Cajori's murals were an inspiration to her when she was a student.
District officials, however, did not know Cajori's mural existed until Friday, when some admirers of the artist - whose work hangs in the Metropolitan and Whitney museums in New York and is now on display at the Wayne Art Center - went to the school looking for the painting, on the theme of education. Instead, they found in its place one on the history of Radnor.
School officials became concerned that the later murals had simply been painted on top, because an old photograph of the auditorium shows Cajori's four-section mural hanging in the same spot. Cajori also said his mural was done on Masonite panels, as is the mural that hangs there today.
Until yesterday, the district did not know who painted the current mural.
Barnes said that, like Cajori, she and classmate Nancy Ralston had painted the mural as a school project. When the girls graduated in 1950, they had finished three of the four sections. The last section was completed by members of the class of 1951, Barnes said.
Barnes is a professional painter who has works in many private collections. Ralston, who now lives in Covington, Pa., has also continued painting, Barnes said.
Whether Cajori's work can be found is uncertain. School officials said they don't know where to begin looking for the missing panels.
"Hopefully, they weren't thrown out or destroyed. Hopefully, someone has them," district spokeswoman Jennifer Blake said yesterday.
Barnes said that she and Ralston plan to do some investigating. "We're going to try to find the custodians, to see if any of them are alive. They're the ones that took it down."