Art Conservator | Volume 13 No. 2

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A P U B L I C A T I O N O F T ‌H E W I L L I A M S T O W N A R T C O N S E R V A T I O N C E N T E R

VO LU M E 13 , N U M B E R 2  •  W I N T E R 2 018

Still Life with Parable Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 1

Contents | Winter 2018

Art Conservator Volume 13, Number 2 • Winter 2018 Director T‌homas J. Branchick Editor Timothy Cahill Art Direction and Production Ed Atkeson/Berg Design Photographer Matthew Hamilton Contributors Maggie Barkovic, Nora Frankel, Brook Prestowitz, Megan Shores Office Manager Rob Conzett Accounts Manager Terry Haskins Printing Snyder Printer, Troy, NY Williamstown Art Conservation Center 227 South Street Williamstown, MA 01267 T: 413-458-5741 F: 413-458-2314 Atlanta Art Conservation Center 6000 Peachtree Road Atlanta, GA 30341 T: 404-733-4589 F: 678-547-1453

3 Director’s Letter 4 Still Life with Martha and Mary

Investigations into a seventeenth-century painted parable Maggie Barkovic 8 Climate Control

Colloquium offers short course in microclimates 10 Portrait of War

Robert Lee Neal’s Rearguard Megan Shores


WACC News & Notes

WACC awarded $580,000 grant from Mellon Foundation; Herman Miller Marshmallow love seat; paper conservators visit Gravity Press 15 Technical Bulletin

Native American Beadwork: History, Materials, and Construction Nora Frankel

All rights reserved. Text and photographs copyright © Williamstown Art Conservation Center (WACC), unless otherwise noted. Art Conservator is published twice yearly by WACC, T‌homas J. Branchick, director. Material may not be reproduced in any form without written permission of Williamstown Art Conservation Center. WACC is a nonprofit, multi-service conservation center serving the needs of member museums, nonprofit institutions and laboratories, and the general public.

On the cover Anonymous, Christ in the House of Mary and Martha (detail), seventeenth-century.

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From the Director

2018 ended with a visit from our own St. Nicholas when the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation contacted the Center with the news we had been awarded a grant for $580,000. This is by far the largest award this facility has ever received, and represents both a vote of confidence for the expertise of our team of conservators and technicians, as well as an affirmation of our vision for WACC’s future. The award was made as part of Mellon’s Comprehensive Organizational Health Initiative, a multi-million dollar commitment that is aiding regional conservation centers around the country. The announcement of the grant capped a two-year period of collaboration with the Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF), which administers the Mellon award. The application process was time consuming and sometimes a little stressful, as it caused the management and trustees to dissect what we needed and where we wanted to go as an organization. NFF and Mellon challenged us to comprehensively articulate our needs and goals, and to draw a solid map to the future. The grant covers the period 2019-2021 and will impact every aspect of our operations. Central to our plans is a major recommitment to our “daughter” institution in Georgia, the Atlanta Art Conservation Center. WACC founded AACC in 2001 in partnership with the High Museum of Art as the first regional conservation center in the Southeast. There’s always been some concern that AACC was a stepchild of WACC, a perception the grant will be used to diminish. A large part of the Mellon monies will be applied to significantly grow AACC, adding conservators, interns, technicians, and workshops. By the end of 2019, we look to have added a paper conservator and objects conservator to our existing staff of two paintings conservators. More expansion will follow. You’ll find a complete description of the grant on page 12 of this publication. One of the goals of our application was to extend the reach of Art Conservator. This magazine is a point of pride for us—it’s how we talk to you, our readers and constituency. I look forward to making that conversation richer and more frequent as we move forward. Stay tuned. It’s going to be an exciting three years! —Tom Branchick

Edward Hopper’s Morning in a City waits in storage before packing and return to its home at the Williams College Museum of Art. The painting had been glazed and given microclimate protection in advance of a temporary loan.

Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 3

Cover Story

Still Life with Mary and Martha Investigations into a seventeenth-century painted parable By Maggie Barkovic Assistant Conservator of Paintings


ittle is known about this unattributed seventeenthcentury Flemish painting titled Christ in the House of Mary and Martha. It is one of the oldest objects in the collection belonging to the Wilderstein Historic Site in Rhinebeck, New York. The painting had not been seen for some years due to an array of structural and aesthetic issues that prevented its exhibition. The work arrived at the Williamstown Art Conservation Center compromised by multiple layers of degraded varnish, interventions from previous restoration campaigns, and complex tears. The rare retention of an eighteenthcentury stretcher, along with details discovered during treatment, prompted me to undertake a preliminary investigation to find out more about this anonymous painted parable. The painting support is a fine linen and arrived to the Center unlined, stretched to an eighteenth-century wooden stretcher retaining some of the hand-wrought tacks. The composition slightly extends over the left tacking edge, which may point to a cropping of the original dimensions. The wooden stretcher is crude in its design, with dovetailed stretcher members and mortise and tenon corner joins. The top and left tacking margins were strip-lined with mattress ticking, while several tears in the canvas were repaired with patches from a few different restoration campaigns. There were additional tears to the canvas, which had become brittle with age. It is a rare occurrence for a painting from this period to 4  |  Art Conservator  | Winter 2018

remain unlined and attached to a functioning eighteenthcentury stretcher. The painting was transferred to a temporary stretching frame for treatment. The vintage stretcher was stabilized for splits and insect damage by WACC frames conservator Hugh Glover and retained for its historical significance. The paint surface was built up using opaque pigment layers on top of a cool gray ground, with delicate glazes applied for modeling. Some of the glazes had been disturbed or lost during previous treatments, and areas containing blue and green glazes, including azurite,1 had degraded and discolored. The surface of the oil painting had multiple layers of yellowed varnish, raised and cupped paint across the entire surface, and localized areas of thick overpaint. The overpaint was used to cover damage and discolored areas of original paint. Overpaint similar to the color of bright red lake (and not well ground) had been applied loosely and heavily across the surface. It covered the entire curtain, much of the still life, and the gold part of Mary’s dress. Its clumsy and wholesale application did not relate well to the overall composition. Its relative high solubility prompted the examination of a crosssection with light microscopy. This examination confirmed that indeed it was overpaint and had been applied over areas that did not contain a red glaze. Solubility testing of the degraded varnish on the curtain showed that the thick red

overpaint was covering a loosely painted floral brocade. While not certain, these findings suggest that the painting was overcleaned at some point in its history, and that the overzealous areas of overpaint had been used to compensate for the loss of a red lake pigment during that cleaning. The degradation and damage to delicate glazes, which included almost a complete loss of a bowl of figs, as well as the discovery of the overpainted floral motif, prompted a preliminary art-historical investigation into the Wilderstein Christ in the House of Mary and Martha. This was done to understand the approach to integrative retouching that would be done in the final steps of treatment. The focus of the biblical narrative is split between a depiction of a rich still life and a genre scene illustrating the action. This combination was common in Flemish paintings from the latter half of the sixteenth century to the seventeenth century and resulted in various collaborations between still-life and genre-scene painters. The parable about Jesus in the home

of Martha and Mary is recorded only in the Gospel of Luke, where it ends the tenth chapter.2 The passage describes the visit of Christ to the house of the two sisters and their brother Lazarus in Bethany, outside Jerusalem. Martha immediately seeks to make their guest feel welcome by preparing a meal, while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet, gazing up in adoration. When Martha asks Jesus to condemn Mary for not helping in the kitchen, Jesus surprises her (and many readers) by rebuffing her complaint. Your sister, he tells Martha, knows what is important and is doing it. He means attention, not to him exactly, but to his message about the kingdom of heaven. Copious variations of the story of Mary and Martha were made in succession during the mid-part of the seventeenth century in Flanders and the Netherlands. The scene became a popular reflection on the contradiction between the newlyaccumulated wealth of Flanders and the puritan demands of their Protestant religion. Several extant versions include collaborations between history or genre painters and prominent

Anonymous, Christ in the House of Mary and Martha, seventeenth century, oil on canvas, 37 in. by 53 in. (95¼ cm by 135cm), after treatment. Opposite page, the painting before treatment, showing degraded varnish, thick overpaint, and exposed ticking. Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 5

© Staatliches Museum Schwerin, photo: Elke Walford

Flemish still-life painters. These collaborations resulted in an array of variations on the theme. In one, Martha’s back is turned on the viewer. In another, Christ’s expression goes from beatific to annoyed. One still life emphasizes the blue Delftware, another is piled with venison. The Wilderstein version is most closely aligned with Christ in the House of Mary and Martha by Erasmus Quellinus ii (1607-1678) and Adriaen van Utrecht (1599-1652), a known copy of which is owned by the Staatliches Museum Schwerin in Germany. This encouraged a dialogue between WACC and the Wilderstein Historic Site with the Staatliches Museum Schwerin to draw connections between their two paintings. The results of this inquiry helped us understand the unique characteristics presented by the Wilderstein version. The Schwerin version is of a smaller format on panel, rather than canvas. The mark on the reverse of the panel has been linked to the Flemish table maker, Nicolaes Vrient (active c.1638-1676/77).3 The composition is expanded horizontally, with a much more complicated still-life composition and the addition of the kitchen, showing a more advanced use of perspective in the background. There are striking similarities between the two still-life compositions, costumes, and layout. The figures in the Schwerin copy are rendered in a completely different fashion, with a much more buxom and dynamic Martha. The brushwork and details found in the Schwerin painting appear more advanced, while the brushwork and

modeling in the Wilderstein copy is less refined. While the two paintings do echo each other, there are differences and reconfigurations that suggest they were not meant to be exact copies. It seems, rather, that the artists responsible for both scenes were inspired by the same original painting. Adriaen van Utrecht took on several students, including his wife, who also made copies of his paintings. Interestingly, both the large copper basin and the arrangement of birds present in the paintings are repeated in other original still lifes by Adriaen van Utrecht. One such example is his use of the copper basin and glass jar in his Banquet Still Life (c. 1644) at the Rijksmuseum. It’s interesting to note that the dimensions of both the Wilderstein and Schwerin paintings are smaller than originals by Quellinus II and various other artists. Perhaps both paintings were copies made by students of Adriaen van Utrecht, rearranging elements and objects found in his studio. The historical investigation proved both interesting and suggestive. It helped inform the reconstruction of certain areas of damage and clarified my conclusion that delicate red lake glazes had been used in certain areas to create a blush on the fruit, or deep red shadows in the some of the drapery. The treatment of the Christ in the House of Mary and Martha posed several questions about its genesis, and prompted inquiry into the materials and techniques used to create the composition. Perhaps in the future, more will be discovered about the possible link of the Wilderstein’s Mary and Martha and Adriaen van Utrecht’s studio. In the meantime, the painting will be on display at the Wilderstein Historic Site to be appreciated as a work of its own.

Erasmus Quellinus II and Adriaen Van Utrecht, Christ in the House of Mary and Martha, (Studio Copy), c.1638-1676, oil on panel, 23 in. by 34 3/4 in. (58.5 cm. by 88.5 cm.). 6  |  Art Conservator  | Winter 2018

Reverse of painting showing dovetailed eighteenth-century stretcher and unlined support with old tears and mends. endnotes 1. Azurite was identified by Christine Puza at the Williamstown Art Conservation Center using polarized light microscopy. Complete identification of the pigments used in the painting was not part of the scope of treatment; however, light microscopy showed evidence for the possible use of copper resinate, red lake, and smalt together with typical pigments found on the seventeenth century palette. 2. “Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered with much serving, and came to him, and said, ‘Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.’ And Jesus answered and said unto her, ‘Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.’ ” —Luke 10:38-42 KJV 3. Seelig, Gero, Jan Brueghels Antwerpen: Die flämischen Gemälde in Schwerin, Exhibition Catalogue

Acknowledgements We are grateful to the support of Duane Watson, curator of the Wilderstein Preservation, and the information provided by Dr. Gero Seelig of the Staatliches Museum Schwerin.

references Hammer-Tugendhat, Daniela. 2000. “Disturbances in the Art of the Early Modern Netherlands and the Formation of the Subject in Pieter Aertsen’s Christ at the House of Martha and Mary”. American Imago. 57 (4): 387-402. Meijer, Fred G. 1995. “Some Flowerpaintings by Adriaen van Utrecht (1599-1652), a Still Life of Fruit by Constancia van Utrecht (after 1606-after 1647) and a Portrait of Adriaen and Constancia”. Oud Holland. 109 (3): 165-169. Moxey, P.K.F. 1971. “Erasmus and the iconography of Pieter Aertsen’s ‘Christ in the house of Martha and Mary’ in the Boymans-Van Beuningen museum”. Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes. 34: 335-336. Kornelia von Berswordt-Wallrabe, Gero Seelig, and Jan Bruegel. 2003. Jan Brueghels Antwerpen: die flämischen Gemälde in Schwerin: Katalog erscheint anlässlich der gleichnamigen Ausstellung vom 15. August bis zum November 2003, Staatliches Museum Schwerin. Schwerin: Staatliches Museum Schwerin. Wheelock, Arthur K. 1988. “Critical Assessments: Christ in the House of Mary and Martha” in Jan Vermeer. New York: Abrams.pp. 64-66 Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 7


Climate Control Colloquium offers short course in microclimates


storage facility to a gallery vitrine to a glazed picture frame may be regarded as a microclimate. In October 2018, the Williamstown Art Conservation Center (WACC) convened its annual preservation colloquium on “Application of Microclimates in Art Preservation.” Open to member institutions of the WACC consortium, the colloquium was led by Hélène Gillette-Woodard, chief conservator of objects; Hugh Glover, chief conservator of furniture and wood objects; and Brook Prestowitz, assistant paper conservator. The daylong workshop touched on a variety of microclimate topics across a range of media. GilletteWoodard discussed active and passive microclimates in museum cases for threedimensional artifacts; Glover described options for creating microclimates for framed paintings; and Prestowitz spoke Aluminum box and spacers ready to receive painting. The assembly will be placed in frame with glazing. on the “sealed package” microclimate for two-dimensional works on paper. In 2007, the National Museum of Denmark demonstrated For three-dimensional objects, museum vitrines or case the importance of microclimate research in collections care environments are controlled through the use of either “active” when it hosted an international conference on museum microclimates created by mechanical systems, and nonmicroclimates. Some three dozen scientific papers were mechanical techniques exploiting so-called “passive” methods. presented, on topics ranging from dust control in libraries to As Hélène Gillette-Woodard explained, a museum building predicting mold growth in historic buildings. As regards the with an HVAC system is itself an active microclimate. Artifacts care of artworks, a microclimate is defined as any specialized that require more precise environments (for example, to enclosure created to control one or more of the factors that maintain a set point of relative humidity, or RH) may have contribute to an object’s material deterioration. These factors dedicated humidifiers, dehumidifiers, and coolers placed inside include temperature, relative humidity, pollutants, damaging museum cases. The use of machinery is costly to install and light spectrum and intensity, pests, water damage, even maintain, but offers a high degree of protective control. thieves and vandals. Microclimate concerns impact all aspects In contrast, passive museum-case microclimates contain of collections care, including exhibition, study, storage, and materials that absorb or “deabsorb” moisture at a given rate transport. In the museum world, everything from a coldhe term “microclimate” may be used to describe any defined area where conditions of temperature, moisture, dust, etc., are notably different from the larger ambient climate. A hospital operating room, a greenhouse, a damp basement are all microclimates.

8  |  Art Conservator  | Winter 2018

Mounted and matted artwork with glazing and backing board being finished with barrier tape to complete sealed package. Right, exploded view of museum case for active microclimate.

use envelope. The rigid box is made up from aluminum angle, aluminum tape, glazing, spacers, and a rigid backing, typically a laminated aluminum and polyethylene panel. The flexible envelope is constructed from a thin aluminized film, not unlike the material often used today for coffee bags, a laminate of nylon, aluminum, and polyethylene. The envelope sections are sealed to the edges of the glazing with hot-melt adhesive. A third method can be used when the shape of the artwork is other than rectangular, e.g., Gothic arched. This method involves the use of closed-cell foam and/or silicone gasket seals against the glazing and the back of the frame, with an impervious rigid backing panel, such as sheet metal or aluminum and polyethylene panel. In all three instances, the enclosures can include conditioning materials to absorb inherent acids and condition the RH, as necessary. Brook Prestowitz explained that microclimates for two-dimensional works on paper are referred to as “sealed packages”; these packages contain the mounted and matted artwork between glazing at the front and a backing board behind. The microclimate is created by sealing all the components of the frame package using a vapor- and gas-impervious membrane, typically a film of aluminum and polyester or nylon that is heat set with a tacking iron. The sealed package must then be placed inside a frame for exhibition. Creating microclimates for works on paper is a key step in their preservation, Prestowitz said. Sealed packages permit the display of works in difficult-to-control environments such as historic houses or the homes of private collectors; reduce potential damage and stress on works while handled or loaned to other institutions; and provide initial protection during unplanned events such as a pipe burst, flood, or fire. Sealed packages also facilitate public access to an institution’s collection. Sealed-package microclimates protect artworks from outside elements, but they can also protect the works from themselves. The relatively inert environment inside the package can slow degradation processes. Special materials, such as conservation grade mat board made with stable paper fibers and Courtesy SmallCorp

typically through the use of silica gels. Modern silica gels are manufactured to achieve highly specialized results; some are made to manage high humidity, while others are calibrated for low RH environments. Passive systems, Gillette-Woodard said, generally require cases that are more tightly sealed against the outer environment. An active system allows for a “leakier case,” she said, because the interior environment is mechanically controlled. All microclimate enclosures for artworks involve the construction of an envelope or container. For framed paintings, these enclosures are discretely hidden behind the picture frame, and as such, the frame is part of the housing. In all instances the art is glazed, usually with anti-reflective acrylic, while laminated safety glass was used more often in the past. In order to protect the microclimate enclosure with its contents, and to hide the added materials from view, the frame back is fitted with a joined wood buildup. WACC frame expert Hugh Glover noted that museum loans create a recurring demand for in-frame microclimates, to ensure the artworks have a stable RH environment during shipping and exhibition. Framehoused enclosures are also used in permanent exhibitions for particularly sensitive objects. Two types of sealed enclosures are commonly used at WACC, one is a reusable rigid box, the other a flexible single-

Microclimates continued on page 14 Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 9

Report from Atlanta

10  |  Art Conservator  | Winter 2018

Portrait of War


t is unknown whether painter Robert Lee Neal (1916-1987) was ever in Korea, though he would have been the right age to serve in that war and World War Two. Whether through experience or insight, he created one of the few known portraits of an African-American infantryman from the Korean War, a painting important not just for its subject matter, but also for the power of its expression. Neal’s 1950 portrait Rearguard was purchased from the artist’s estate by the Columbus Museum in Columbus, Georgia, as part of the institution’s commitment to African-American artists. It was brought to the Atlanta Art Conservation Center for treatment before going on to its new home. Neal was a student prodigy of the renowned muralist and abstract painter Hale Woodruff. He began his studies in 1931 at age 15; by the end of the decade, he was working as chief assistant on Woodruff’s famed mural series Mutiny Aboard the Amistad for Talladega College in Alabama. So key was Neal to the project that Woodruff later wrote to a biographer that, “Bob did the cartoons [underdrawings] for the murals, and he posed for all the hand Robert Lee Neal, Rearguard, 1950, drawings and some of the figures.” In the early 1940s, Neal moved after treatment. Left, detail showing to Dayton, Ohio, where he received mural commissions through the background. Works Progress Administration before that agency was dissolved in 1943. He was among the artists featured in a 1943 book Modern Negro Art, by James A. Porter. Little is known about his life or career after that. Yet from Rearguard we know that Neal possessed a keen insight into human emotion, including the trauma of war. The portrait is anonymous but possesses a striking individuality. The soldier is dressed in combat fatigues with a heavy coat buttoned against the Korean cold, and holds an M-1 Garand, the standard-issue infantry rifle. Over his shoulder, a truck and tank convoy follows a zigzag road to the sea, where a battleship and destroyers are faintly visible in the far distance. In the sky are two jet aircraft, which first saw regular wartime use in Korea. This G.I. may be in the “rearguard” now, far from the battlefront, but the artist suggests that combat is foremost in his thoughts. His expression is one of weary resignation, and the detachment in his eyes can be read either as anxiety at the prospect of heading into battle, or the so-called “thousand-mile stare” of one who has survived its horrors. As an object, the painting is interesting for its unique strainer supporting the canvas. The strainer is made from four wooden rulers, their measurement demarcations clearly visible, and supported in each corner by a metal strip placed across the joint and nailed into the wood. When the work arrived for treatment, it presented several conservation concerns, including multiple small paint losses, an overall cracking pattern, a heavy layer of surface dirt and grime, and a discolored varnish layer that had turned the sky green. The small paint losses were consolidated with Isinglass, and surface dirt and grime were cleaned with an aqueous solution on cotton swabs. The discolored varnish was removed using solvent on a microfilament poultice to protect the cracks in the paint layer. Once the cleaning was completed, paint losses were filled with synthetic gesso, an overall, saturating layer of synthetic varnish was applied, and losses were inpainted. The finished treatment stabilized the paint layer to prevent additional losses, and revealed the painting’s original brightness, uncovering a vivid blue sky. —Megan Shores Associate Conservator of Paintings / Atlanta Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 11

WACC News & Notes

WACC awarded $580,000 grant from Andrew W. Mellon Foundation


he Williamstown Art Conservation Center has been awarded a

site visits, NFF advisors worked with a WACC leadership team led

grant of $580,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The

by Branchick, Board of Trustees president Sheila M. Stone, and

multi-year grant will be used to support growth initiatives at WACC

accounts manager Terry Haskins, with assistance from Maggie

and to significantly expand the Atlanta Art Conservation Center

Barkovic, paintings conservator, to develop the newly funded

(AACC) in Atlanta, GA.

multi-year strategy.

The award was made under the Mellon Foundation’s Comprehensive Organizational Health Initiative, a multi-million dollar commitment by the New York-based foundation to

“The Mellon Foundation embraced the idea that the grant would support two centers, not just one,” said Branchick. Much of the $580,000 award will be dedicated to increasing

strengthen small and mid-size arts institutions and regional

services and staff at the Atlanta Art Conservation Center.

conservation centers. In collaboration with the Nonprofit Finance

AACC was established in 2001 as a partnership between the

Fund (NFF), the Mellon award provides WACC with financial

Williamstown Art Conservation Center and the High Museum of

resources to enhance capacity building over a three-year period.

Art to serve member institutions and private clients throughout

The grant will expand AACC’s resources, increasing its impact

the Southeast. WACC oversees staffing and operations in facilities

as the first regional art conservation center in the Southeast.

provided by the High. The grant will allow AACC to double its full-

The award will also allow for greater integration of services and

time staff of conservators, adding a paper conservator and objects

personnel between Atlanta and Williamstown, fund an upgrade in

conservator to its present roster of two paintings conservators.

WACC’s analytical services capabilities, and expand publication of

Expanded services will also include internships for young

Art Conservator.

conservators at all stages of their training and workshops for

“We are thrilled to receive such comprehensive support from

museum professionals and contemporary artists. The grant allows

the Mellon Foundation,” said WACC director Tom Branchick.

for greater integration between WACC and AACC, permitting

“This three-year grant will allow us to better serve our member

additional travel and collaboration between the two sites.

institutions and the cultural patrimony they protect, and to secure the future of art conservation in our two service regions for decades to come.” “I am grateful to the staff at the Mellon Foundation and NFF

The award will allow the Center to remain competitive during a time when both technology and business strategies are in flux. The Mellon grant will permit investment in upgraded equipment and new personnel. It will also fund the purchase of a FTIR

for their assistance and encouragement through the application

microscope, greatly enhancing the scope and efficacy of analytical

process,” Branchick added.

services. FTIR—Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy—scans

The grant, announced in December 2018, builds on a $150,000 Mellon Financial Health Initiative awarded to WACC in 2017. That

test samples with infrared light to isolate and identify materials. Finally, a portion of the grant will be used to expand publication

grant funded a comprehensive financial analysis and development

of Art Conservator. In its thirteenth year, Art Conservator is the

of business strategies to increase sustainability at WACC and

only periodical about art conservation written for a non-technical

AACC. Through a series of in-depth telephone conferences and


The “Marshmallow love seat” was introduced by Herman Miller in 1956. Designed by Irving Harper at the George Nelson design firm, the sofa was steel with circular cushion pads. The example here had had a long life before being donated to the High Museum in Atlanta. It arrived at WACC with the orange hopsack covers stained and smudged; examination revealed the present fabric was covering the original orange vinyl, which was degraded beyond repair. The woven covers were carefully removed, cleaned in an aqueous solution, and reattached by sewing them in place rather than re-stapling. The Marshmallow sofa was celebrated as the epitome of modern chic, but only 186 were produced between 1956 and 1961, when it was discontinued. It was re-issued in the 1980s and continues in limited production today. 12  |  Art Conservator  | Winter 2018

WACC Staff

T‌homas Branchick Director Conservator of Paintings/Dept. Head Maggie Barkovic Assistant Conservator of Paintings Rob Conzett Office Manager

Rebecca Johnston

Nora Frankel Assistant Conservator of Objects and Textiles

Gravity Press owner Brandon Graving (third from left) meets WACC paper department members Leslie Paisley, Brook Prestowitz, and Simeon Youngmann.

Paper conservators visit Gravity Press As part of an ongoing commitment to contemporary art materials and techniques, the Williamstown Art Conservation Center’s Paper Department took a research trip this fall to see artist and master printmaker Brandon Graving at her Gravity Press Experimental Print Shop in North Adams, Massachusetts. Department head Leslie Paisley, conservator Rebecca Johnston, assistant conservator Brook Prestowitz, and technician Simeon Youngmann all attended. Graving founded Gravity Press in 2007, after twelve years working in North Adams and New Orleans. She holds a BFA in printmaking and sculpture from the University of Southwestern, Lafayette, Louisiana, and studied at Newcomb College of Tulane University. Her large-scale prints incorporate unique layerings of texture and color, involving inks varying in viscosities and complex interaction of three-dimensional impressions with the fibers of the paper support. She also makes dynamic sculptures from paper and other materials. For her work, Graving has been awarded the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant, and the Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation Grant, among others. “My work has a natural immediacy, like a snapshot, capturing the chemical reaction of liquid inks as they are pushed into paper with a press, or sculptures that move with ambient air currents around them, interacting with the viewer,” Graving explains in an artist’s statement. “My work attempts to elicit an experience rather than recording or depicting an object or place; ideally, communicating aspects of being human, as I

Hélène Gillette-Woodard Conservator of Objects/Dept. Head Hugh Glover Conservator of Furniture and Wood Objects/Dept. Head Matthew Hamilton Photography Technician Terry Haskins Assistant to the Director/Accounts Manager Mary Holland Paintings Apprentice Rebecca Johnston Conservator of Paper Montserrat Le Mense Conservator of Paintings Paul Nichols Conservation Technician Leslie Paisley Conservator of Paper/Dept. Head Brook Prestowitz Assistant Conservator of Paper Christine Puza Associate Conservator of Furniture and Wood Objects Justin Trapp Office Assistant/Technician

continue to grapple with that complexity.” Graving showed the conservators a number of personal works-in-progress, including Roux, a print series inspired by the artist’s first-hand experience of Hurricane Katrina, and The Last Ship from the River of the Northern City, a book of colored woodblock prints made in collaboration with artist and WACC trustee Steve Hannock and rock musician Sting. Among the shop’s several printing presses is the 5-foot-by-11-foot hydraulic platen press fondly called “Monster.” Painted an undeniable red, Monster allows the artist to make extremely large prints like her monoprint Ephemera: River with Flowers, which measures ten-and-a-half feet by thirty-two feet.

Atlanta Art Conservation Center Megan Shores Associate Conservator of Paintings Samantha Skelton Associate Conservator of Paintings Lindsey Tucker Office Assistant

Gravity Press continued on page 14 Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 13

Microclimates continued from page 9 inclusions of inorganic compounds called zeolites can be used in microclimates. These types of housing materials can absorb acidity offgassed by papers as they age, thereby rendering them more stable over time. A common element in the applications described in the colloquium was the presence of glazing—in a museum case, a picture frame, or a sealed package. A discussion of glazing is a discussion of materials: glass or thermoplastic panes of acrylic or polycarbonate. Glass has the advantage of being inert and nonporous, providing a moisture barrier, while thermoplastics are porous enough to allow the passage of water vapor. Each glazing material has its advantages and disadvantages. For example, the interaction with moisture can cause thermoplastics to warp or cup, as the difference in RH causes the more humid side to swell. This is problematic as the artwork can be damaged from contact with the glazing or the seal of the microclimate can be compromised. More importantly, the passing of vapors or gasses through the acrylic will change the microclimate inside the sealed package, affecting the work inside. However, acrylic glazing is less prone to shattering with impact and is much lighter, facilitating

handling, exhibition, and storage of objects housed with thermoplastic glazing. With museum cases, glass does not allow moisture exchange like acrylic glazing, but acrylic cases can be sealed at the edges, allowing for highly controlled interior climates. Glass cases require channel construction that depends on caulking to create a tight seal. Glass vitrines are also heavier, more breakable, and more expensive. Those caring for a collection must assess their needs and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each system to select the one that will best serve their needs. The workshop was attended by seventeen collections professionals representing public museums, academic museums, and historical sites. Afterward, participants commended the WACC presenters for making microclimates in preservation care understandable and applicable to their varied needs. Based on the evaluation forms, there is interest in future preservation workshops and colloquiums, ranging in topics from archival housing and storage and emergency response planning to more advanced seminars on preservation care of paintings, works on paper and sculpture.

Gravity Press continued from page 13 of media used in an artwork can also greatly impact treatment

Understanding the processes and materials used to make artwork is key for conservators. Such knowledge informs a

procedures and exhibition requirements. Correct identification

conservator’s decisions when making recommendations on

of paper types and fiber “furnish” (stock or raw materials, e.g.,

treatment, exhibition, and/or storage. For example, some planar

cotton, linen, wood pulp, etc.) will inform treatment decisions as

distortions in a work on paper may be characteristic of the

well. Opportunities to visit artists like Graving are invaluable for

art-making process. When such characteristics are present, conservation treatment would have to be planned so as not to

conservators, who must keep current on the processes and

affect the surface’s three-dimensional quality. Knowing the types

materials used in contemporary studios. Had one of Graving’s

Collection of Frederick R. Weismann Foundation / Mike Smith photo

prints (or one like it) arrived in the lab without any context regarding its creation, WACC paper conservators would have had to visually “reverse engineer” how the print was made in order to properly classify it. While there are guides for identifying printing processes (e.g. “Guidelines for Descriptive Terminology for Works of Art on Paper” by Ash, et. al.), learning directly from the artist provides a unique insight. Such site visits significantly clarify the creative processes at use in contemporary art in ways a written text cannot. It is also wonderful to develop a conservator/artist relationship, opening venues for collaborations and learning. —Brook Prestowitz Assistant Conservator of Paper Brandon Graving, Ephemera: River with Flowers, 2004, embossed monoprint on paper with sculpture of polychromed river sticks. 14  |  Art Conservator  | Winter 2018

Tech Notes, Winter 2018

Native American Beadwork Part One: History, Materials, and Construction By Nora Frankel Assistant Conservator of Objects and Textiles Beadwork is iconic in Native American art, clothing, and objects. The familiar use of glass beads dates to early European contact, building on a much longer tradition of beadwork and quillwork appliqué using materials indigenous to North America. This first of two articles on Native American beadwork will focus on history, technique, and materials in order to provide a basic understanding and context to aid in proper care and conservation of beadwork objects. Beadwork from Ancient to Modern

Different culture groups have developed a unique aesthetic of colors, motifs, and styles. A design may be significant to an individual or culture, and can be a result of dreams or deep contemplation. Some patterns resonate with cultural identity or origin stories, such as triangular representations of Bear Butte in Tsitsistas (Cheyenne) beadwork, or the curvilinear Tree of Life of Haudenosaunee (Iroquois/ Six Nations) beadwork. Beadwork, like any art, evolved, borrowed, and innovated to create a rich visual history. There are many active beadworkers today, some working with traditional styles, while artists such as Jamie Okuma,1,2 and Marcus Amerman3 use traditional knowledge in a contemporary context. Many cultures have a long pre-contact tradition of beadwork using natural materials. The established use of dyed porcupine quills to decorate clothing, bags, moccasins, and other items, also paved the way for the skillful and enthusiastic use of trade beads. Quillwork techniques include sewn appliqué, wrapping, and loom work, methods later echoed in beadwork. Practices such as moose-hair wrapped weft and appliqué, were also part of this visual and technical evolution. Quillwork was historically popular beyond the natural habitat of the porcupine, requiring trade networks for Figure 1 distribution, and European encroachment eventually reduced access to porcupines for many communities. Preparing and working with quills is also difficult and time consuming, and curved designs are especially challenging. Beads, although necessarily traded, require no special preparation, are available in a wide array of colors, and can be worked in both curved and raised patterns. Early beadwork is often a direct translation of quillwork styles, and sometimes used alongside it (fig. 1). The nineteenth century brought an influx of European materials and aesthetics, increasing the Native American design repertoire and materials with beads, metals, printed fabrics, shimmering silks, sturdy wools, and the metal needles and commercial thread to utilize them.4 This precipitated the explosion of new styles and techniques of beadwork. Tourist markets Williamstown Art Conservation Center  |  15

also influenced beadwork. An early example are the Niagara styles of the Haudenosaunee, resembling embroidered Berlin wool work in the first half of the nineteenth century (fig. 2), and becoming increasingly Victorian in the sparkling, white, highly raised Tuscarora whimsies in the latter half. 5 Techniques

Beadwork is either stitched to substrate, or without a substrate, creating its own fabric. Beads can also be woven into textile structures such as finger-woven sashes or edges on burden straps. Objects may contain several techniques: Net beadwork is substrate-free, although it is often stitched to objects such as fringe (fig.3). Beads are threaded and secured in an interlocked network using a single, continuous element without a loom.6 Woven beadwork uses at least two elements, often referred to as a warp and a weft, to create an interwoven structure. It can be worked on a loom, which constrains one set of threads, the warp, while beads are secured with the weft threads.7 Bow looms are a common type. Finger weaving is free of a loom, and threads often intersect diagonally, approximately forty-five degrees from the selvage, while looms create threads ninety degrees from the selvage. Sewn beadwork is stitched to a substrate to decorate the surface. While many types of stitches may be used, lane stitch (sometimes called lazy stitch, which is not a preferred term) and couched beadwork, also known as overlaid or spot stitch, are the most common.8 Lane stitch uses a single thread to secure beads, usually three to ten, and can fill large areas by working in parallel “lanes” (figs. 1 & 4). Couched beadwork is more typical for creating longer continuous lines (figs. 2, 3, & 4). A larger number of beads is threaded onto a surface, and additional couching stitches are placed across the thread after every few beads for security. Edges are often decorated, and one-, two-, and threebead edgings are common.9

Figure 2

Materials Figure 3

indigenously produced beads Native North Americans have a long tradition of pre-colonial beadwork, using materials such as shell, pearl, stone, bone, coral, wood, teeth, and seeds. Many beads are cut, drilled, and smoothed, although in some instances shells can be used nearly whole. Long before European contact, gold, silver, and copper alloys were being manufactured in Central America and Mexico, and cultures around the Great Lakes, Woodlands, and Southwest used copper for tools and beads.10 Shell beads never lost popularity in many regions even as European materials were available. Wampum, made from quahog and channeled whelk, is one of the most well-known among non-Natives, often woven into belts. Shells are not exclusive to the coasts; the long, spike-like dentalium shells, originating from the Pacific Ocean, are traditionally p opular as far as the Great Basin, Plateau, and Plains. Beads from Pacific Olivella shells are found in Pueblo jewelry, a testament to the complex trade networks in place.11 In these interior and mountainous regions, elk teeth and bone imitation elk teeth also predate glass beads, and remain important today,

16 | Art Conservator | Winter 2018 2015

especially on traditional clothing of the Apśaalooke (Crow) and other Nations in this area. tr ade beads Glass beads were manufactured in Europe and China, and can be found in a near-infinite variety of colors and shapes. The most ubiquitous are small, nearly spherical beads cut from drawn glass tubes.12 Small seed beads (1/16 to 3/16 inch) were introduced in the Plains in the 1840s, usurping the larger pony beads (greater than 1/8 inch) in popularity.13 Seed beads can have one or more facets, creating a sparkling effect. Modern beads may have special finishes such as opalescence. Beads known as “white hearts” have an opaque white interior, and colored translucent exterior, usually red. Traditional color choices as well as designs can be distinctive to cultural groups. Metal beads and spangles are common additions to glass seed beads. Metals include steel, brass, and silver, as well as other metal alloys such as various permeations of German silver (fig. 4). Metal spangles, created from hammering a coil of wire until it creates a flattened disk with a small seam where the ends of the circular wire met, are common on mid- to late-nineteenth century Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) beadwork, especially Niagara styles. Plastic beads can also be found on beadwork from the mid-twentieth century onwards. thread and sinew Sinew, made from animal tendons, is a strong proteinaceous material with little to no elasticity. The traditional sewing material for quillwork, sinew is often used in beadwork, especially on hide and from Plains cultures. Artificial sinew, typically made from waxed polyester or cotton fibers, may be used in more recent beadwork. Commercial and indigenously produced threads are also used, particularly on fabrics and substrate-free beadwork (fig. 4). Commercial threads include cotton (mercerized and unmercerized), linen, and polyester. Commercial Figure 4 threads are very regular and typically more than two-ply and tightly spun. Linen thread is less common after the nineteenth century, and polyester was not invented until 1940.14 Indigenously produced plant fibers such as dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum), basswood (Tilia americana), slippery elm (Ulmus rubra), milkweed (Asclepias spp.) and various nettle species are also sometimes used, especially in substrate-free beadwork, edgings, and larger beads.15,16 The fibers are typially two-ply, undyed, slightly thicker and less regular than commercial cotton thread, and generally indicate work from mid-nineteenth century or earlier. Substrate

Surface decoration is typically worked on semi-tanned hide or fabric. Hide, often brain-tanned and either smoked or unsmoked, is dense and strong. Stitches on hide typically do not pierce the entire skin, but rather are worked partially through. Fabrics include wool trade cloth, calico

Williamstown Art Conservation Center  |  17

and other cottons, and cotton velveteen or silk velvet. Beadwork stitches on fabric are sewn through the whole material, possibly through several layers. Silk fabric and ribbons are more common as linings and trims, the latter of which may have beaded edgings. Paper is often used as linings and interlinings of beadwork on fabric, especially from the Woodlands. Paper is often used under raised beadwork, or between layers of fabric to give hats and bags more structure. Beads can also be wrapped around handles and other hard substrates of various materials. Conclusion

This is a very cursory introduction to the great variety of beadwork styles and techniques of Native North Americans, a subject many entire books are devoted to. Basic technical understanding and cultural context is integral for the proper conservation and care of beaded items, which will be addressed in Part Two. Endnotes 1. Jamie Okuma, 2. Allaire, Christian, “Native American Artist Jamie Okuma Talks Custom Shoe Works,” Footwear News, April 25, 2016. https:// 3. Marcus Amerman, 4. Kronthal, Lisa, “Identification and Conservation of Quillwork and Hollow Hair Embroidery,” in The treatment and handling of textiles with associated problematic materials: 2nd bi-annual symposium held at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, NY October 6-7, 1994. The Textile Conservation Group, 1994, 111-134. 5. Biron, Gerry, A Cherished Curiosity: The Souvenir Beaded Bag in Historic Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Art, 2012. 6. Orchard, William, Beads and Beadwork of the American Indians, Museum of the American Indian Heye Foundation, 1975, 139150 for diagrams of common structures. 7. Ibid., 104-139. 8. Ibid., 151. 9. Ibid., 160. 10. Ibid., 54-70. 11. Ibid., 22-24. 12. Ohern, Robin, and Kelly McHugh, “Red, Blue, and Wound all over: Evaluating Condition Change and Cleaning of Glass Disease on Beads.” Objects Specialty Group Postprints, Volume Twenty-One, 2014, 205-228. 13. Ibid. 14. Tímár-Balázsy, Ágnes and Dinah Eastop, Chemical Principles of Textile Conservation, Amsterdam: Elsevier Ltd., 1998, 60. 15. Erichsen-Brown, Charlotte, Medicinal and Other Uses of North American Plants: A Historical Survey with Special Reference to the Eastern Indian Tribes, Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1989. 16. Orchard, 1975.

Nora Frankel is Assistant Conservator of Objects and Textiles at the Williamstown Art Conservation Center. Prior work includes a two-year Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and a graduate placement at the Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands. She received graduate degrees in Textile Conservation from the University of Glasgow Center for Textile Conservation in 2016, and in Principles of Conservation from University College London in 2014.

18 | Art Conservator | Winter 2018 2015

Members of the Consortium

Williamstown Art Conservation Center 227 South Street, Williamstown, MA 01267

T‌he Hyde Collection

Springfield Museums

—Glens Falls, NY

—Springfield, MA

T‌he Lawrenceville School —Lawrenceville, NJ Mead Art Museum,

Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy —Andover, MA Adirondack Experience —Blue Mountain Lake NY Albany Institute of History & Art —Albany, NY Alice T. Miner Colonial Collection —Chazy, NY T‌he Arkell Museum —Canajoharie, NY Arnot Art Museum —Elmira, NY Art Complex Museum —Duxbury, MA Bennington Museum —Bennington, VT Berkshire Museum —Pittsfield, MA Bowdoin College Museum of Art

Amherst College —Amherst, MA Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester —Rochester, NY Middlebury College Museum of Art —Middlebury, VT Mount Holyoke College Art Museum —South Hadley, MA Munson Williams Proctor Arts

Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute Suzy Frelinghuysen and George L.K. Morris Foundation —Lenox, MA

Von Auersberg Gallery, Deerfield

other nonprofit organizations,


corporations and individuals; to

—Deerfield, MA —Williamstown, MA

training of conservators; to promote the importance of conservation

—Hartford, CT

and increase the awareness of

Neuberger Museum,

the issues pertinent to collections

Purchase College, State University

care; and to conduct research and

of New York

disseminate knowledge to advance

—Purchase, NY

the profession.

New Hampshire Historical Society Atlanta Art Conservation Center 6000 Peachtree Road

Manchester Historical Society


Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art —Amherst, MA Everson Museum of Art —Syracuse, NY Farnesworth Art Museum —Rockland, ME Fenimore Art Museum —Cooperstown, NY Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College —Poughkeepsie, NY Frederic Remington Art Museum —Ogdensburg, NY Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University —Ithaca, NY Hill-Stead Museum —Farmington, CT Historic Deerfield, Inc. —Deerfield, MA Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College —Hanover, NH

tion of works of art and objects of

—Utica, NY

—Albany, NY —Newport, RI Norman Rockwell Museum —Stockbridge, MA Picker Art Gallery, Colgate University —Hamilton, NY Plattsburgh State Art Museum —Plattsburgh, NY Preservation Society of Newport County —Newport, RI

respect to the care and conservacultural interest; to participate in the

Atlanta, GA 30341

—Waterville, ME

conduct educational programs with

Williams College Museum of Art

Museum of Connecticut History

Newport Restoration Foundation

of our cultural heritage; to provide

for member institutions, and for

—Schenectady, NY

Services, Empire State Plaza Art

Colby College Museum of Art

conserve and maintain the objects

and related conservation services

Union College

New York State Office of General

—Manchester, CT

‌he mission of the Williamstown Art Conservation Center, a

examination, treatment, consultation


—Concord, NH


nonprofit institution, is to protect,

—Williamstown, MA

T‌he Cheney Homestead of the

—Brunswick, ME

Mission Statement

Alabama Historical Commission —Montgomery, AL Booth Western Art Museum —Cartersville, GA Brenau University —Gainesville, GA Clark Atlanta University Art

WACC Board of Trustees

Museum —Atlanta, GA

Sheila M. Stone (President)

T‌he Columbus Museum

Bruce Grinnell (Secretary Clerk)

—Columbus, GA

Russ Howard (Treasurer)

High Museum of Art

Joe Finnegan (Vice President)

—Atlanta, GA

Rhode Island School of Design


Paula Consolini

Museum of Art

Museum of Art

Susan Cross

—Providence, RI T‌he Rockwell Museum of Western Art —Corning, NY Roland Gibson Gallery, State University of New York —Potsdam, NY

—Demorest, GA

Anna D’Ambrosio

Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts —Montgomery, AL Morris Museum of Art —Augusta, GA Telfair Museum of Art —Savannah, GA

Susan Dunn Stephen Hannock Diane Hart Katherine Hart Martin Mahoney Olivier Meslay

The Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum

Vanderbilt University Fine Arts

Paul Neely

of Art, Hamilton College


Dr. Heather Nolin

—Clinton NY Smith College Museum of Art, —Northampton, MA

—Nashville, TN Watson-Brown Foundation —Thomson, GA

Richard Saunders Katie Hazlett Schmidt Diane Taylor

Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 19

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