Au Revoir, Le Bonheur de Vivre

Doug Jaques' award-winning 24th St. mural gets painted over

Don't expect to see this art the next time you pass the intersection of 24th and Guadalupe. The landmark mural that enlivened the West Campus wall there for almost 20 years is gone. Le Bonheur de Vivre, created by the late Austin master muralist Doug Jaques with the help of his students at Austin Community College in 1998 has been painted over.

Le Bonheur de Vivre as captured by photographer Carol Highsmith in 2014.

Sometime in mid-October, the entire exterior of the building at 2354 Guadalupe was covered with a coat of dull gray paint, and that includes the wall on which Jaques' three-panel mural existed.

Photo by Robert Faires

It was the final indignity for Le Bonheur de Vivre (The Joy of Life) (its title lifted from Henri Matisse's masterpiece of 1906). Over the last decade, the work had been increasingly targeted by taggers, and in the past year, the graffiti had gotten to the point that it almost totally covered the bottom six feet of the mural.

In June, The Daily Texan reported that the graffiti was covered with brown paint by "an unknown group of people." (The building's owner, Cavanaugh Austin Properties, and the realtor who sold it to them, denied having any part in or knowledge of the action.) But the new paint looked to have been applied with as little regard for the artwork it covered as the tagging itself had been. What it left was a bland beige smear across the lower half of the mural – which quickly became covered with new graffiti.

A sad end to this unique work of Austin street art, an ambitious painting that employed classical techniques to depict scenes that were playfully surreal: a couple in formal wear slow-dancing amidst Hill Country scrub with an escalator behind them, a man playing violin next to a leaping piglet, a naked woman lying on a hill out of which stretch a pair of gigantic hands, figures floating and leaning at impossible angles, all of them under lavender whipped-cream clouds and a violet-and-sapphire pointillist sky. It's hardly surprising that just after the mural's completion, Chronicle readers voted it Best Mural in the Best of Austin poll four years in a row. (Okay, twice it tied with Carlos Lowry's beloved Varsity mural that faced it across 24th Street.) Perhaps the only consolation in this situation – and it's a bitter one – it's that the mural's maker didn't live to see its desecration. Jaques died in 2013. Rest in peace, Doug Jaques, and au revoir, Le Bonheur de Vivre. You shall be missed.

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Austin murals, Doug Jaques, Carlos Lowry

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