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T h e b u l l e t i 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 vat i o n C e n t e r V o l u m e 2 , N u m b e r 1  •   m ay 2 0 0 7

Boudin’s Seaside Idyll Williamstown Art Conservation Center  |  1


Contents, May 2007

Art Conservator Volume 2, Number 1 • May 2007

3 Director’s Letter

Director Thomas J. Branchick Editor Timothy Cahill Photographer Matthew Hamilton Art Direction and Layout Kosak Design, Pittsburgh PA Contributors Mary Catherine Betz, Katrin Geng, Hugh Glover, Michael Heslip, Katherine Holbrow, Rebecca Johnston, Henry Klein, Monserrat M.M. LeMense, Cynthia Luk, Leslie Paisley, Gerri Ann Strickler, Sandra Webber Office Manager Katherine Tremblay Accounts Manager Teresa Beer Office Assistants Rob Conzett Susan Scherr Printing Network Printing Services, Pittsburgh, PA

4 Boudin On the Beach

Williamstown Art Conservation Center 225 South Street Williamstown, MA 01267 www.williamstownart.org T: 413-458-5741 F: 413-458-2314 All rights reserved. Text and photographs copyright (c) 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.

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A lost masterpiece by the French seaside painter is rediscovered 8 Consummate Warhol 10 An Old Frame’s Reminiscences An original 1845 Asher B. Durand frame epitomizes a classic American style 12 A Bouguereau Resurrection 14 Report from Atlanta New Life for a Civil War Steamboat 16 WACC News & Notes Dallas decorative fans, a New Hampshire tavern sign, a Cassatt pastel and Cal Ripkin

21 Tech Notes Annual maintenance programs for outdoor sculpture


From the Director

Hot on the heels of October’s inaugural issue of Art Conservator, I am pleased to offer another showstopper. We have received overwhelming praise for the new bulletin and thank everyone for their feedback. We’ve always known the work we do at WACC and AACC is fascinating. Now, with our expanded editorial content and full-color photography, I feel like we are at last doing justice to the expert treatments and dramatic aesthetic changes that take place here. As you can see from the photo below, our new building on the Clark campus is progressing. Not only can we visit the site and experience the glorious setting, but we can now walk inside and get a feel for the lab spaces. The whole experience gives me goose bumps. When we move in next year, the new WACC will be a fabulous facility and yet-another destination site in northern Berkshire. Special recognition is due to trustees Bob McGill and John Craig for negotiating with the Clark Art Institute on our lease agreement for the new building. Thanks to their hard work and the Clark’s generosity, WACC’s future is secured for years to come. January saw changes on the WACC Board of Trustees. Laurie Norton Moffatt, director of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, came on as the new board president, Valerie Kennedy continues as vice president, Bob McGill was named treasurer and John Craig is now secretary/clerk. Many thanks to outgoing term trustees Lee Dalzell, Sandy Laiman, David Fehr and David Dangremond. Finally, WACC International. Thanks to the efforts of staff member Cynthia Luk and funding from the Trust for Mutual Understanding and private benefactors, our projects abroad continue to flourish. The latest development is a planned exchange with Mongolia that will send WACC staff to Ulaanbaatar in July and Mongolian representatives to WACC in October. This is global warming of a far more beneficial kind.  —Thomas J. Branchick

Rafters and beams—Exterior walls are up and the inside spaces have begun to take shape as construction progresses on WACCs new facility adjacent to the Clark Institute. Architect Tadao Ando designed the new center with large expanses of natural light, as evident in this view of the future paintings lab. Williamstown Art Conservation Center  |  3


Cover Story

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Boudin On The Beach A lost masterpiece by the French seaside painter is rediscovered

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efore it was ready to return to public view, a long-forgotten masterwork by French artist EugeneLouis Boudin (1824-1898) was brought first to the Williamstown Art Conservation Center for restoration and repair. The painting, Beach Scene in Trouville, is considerably larger than most of Boudin’s work, and was painted at the height of his career in the mid-1860s. It had been out of circulation and was recently rediscovered after decades in private hands. Boudin is recognized as one of 19thcentury France’s minor masters, and remains renowned for his choppy waters, windy skies and airy, amiable depictions of the Gallic shore. He is best known for his scenes of Trouville, the Normandy seaside town that in the 1860s became the Easthampton of its day. Boudin’s quick, soft brushwork captured with equal ease the shifting light of the coast and the insouciant charm of Parisians on the beach. Boudin was born in the Normandy coast town of Le Havre. He left school at 12, and worked in a printers shop before buying a stationery business that also sold frames and art supplies. Through the shop he met local artists and developed aspirations to become a painter. To avoid military service, Boudin sold his store to pay another man to take his place in the army. Unable to finance formal training, he persisted in teaching himself Beach Scene in Trouville by Eugene-Louis Boudin, after treatment. Williamstown Art Conservation Center  |  5


In addition to being obscured by a dull brown haze, the result of oxidized varnish mixed with decades of dust and grime, it was evident the painting had suffered water damage along its bottom edge.

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to paint. The young artist became known for his “work, order and patience,” and eventually won a grant to study in Paris. Three years later, he returned to Normandy and devoted himself to painting France’s coastal regions. He painted en plein air, working outdoors directly from nature. He painted the shifting face of the water and sky, he painted boats, he painted peasant girls at work. By 1860, the railroads had made the Normandy coast easily accessible from Paris, and tourists were soon transforming fishing villages into popular summer “bathing-places” for the rich. The most famous of these resorts was Trouville, and Boudin became its chronicler, capturing the easy leisure and chic beach fashions of the newcomers. Boudin, though not nearly as well known as the artists he associated with, is an important link in the chain of French modernism. He counted among his friends and colleagues Millet, Courbet and Corot, who once declared, upon surveying the young Boudin’s atmospheric scenes, “You are the master of the sky.” In 1858, Boudin met a fledgling artist earning pocket money by drawing caricatures, and taught him to paint outdoors. The pupil was Claude Monet, who later wrote, “if I became a painter, it was thanks to Boudin. He was a man of infinite kindness and took it upon himself to teach me.” Boudin went on to exhibit with Monet in the first Impressonist Exhibition in 1874. Beach Scene in Trouville is in many respects representative of Boudin’s mature beach paintings, but in one significant way has few peers. At more than 40 inches wide and 26 inches high, the picture is two to three times larger than a typical Boudin canvas. While these smaller paintings tend to depict discrete tableaux, Beach Scene, in contrast, presents a charming panorama of linked episodes,


Opposite: The Boudin as it arrived at WACC. Left: Detail after restoration but before restretching, showing the canvas edge and existing tacks marks.

thoroughly consolidated. Close inspection of the paint surface revealed that Boudin had overpainted his original signature and re-signed the painting slightly higher in the right corner, and had painted out a wind pole directly above the seated woman in the blue dress. Inspection also revealed that at some point the painting had been extended on all sides, probably to accommodate a larger frame, and given a glue-paste linen lining. With the painting removed from its stretcher for treatment, Boudin’s original tacking edge was clearly visible 1 /4-inch

each with its separate drama. The painting is dated 1865, a year when Boudin is known to have produced a large scene for the Paris salon. The painting was brought to the Williamstown Art Conservation Center for stabilization and cleaning. In addition to being obscured by a dull brown haze, the result of oxidized varnish mixed with decades of dust and grime, it was evident the painting had suffered water damage along its bottom edge. WACC director and chief paintings conservator Tom Branchick discovered that moisture

had wicked up through the frame into the stretcher and canvas. He found cracking, cupping, cleaving and flaking of the ground and paint, and a condition known as “tenting,” in which areas of paint lift off the surface and create hollow pockets underneath. “The topography of the paint surface resembled a sea of corn flakes,” says Branchick, “and the trick was putting them all back down without any overlap.” The dirt and varnish were removed with surfactant solutions and cotton swabs and the paint layer

inside the extended picture edge. Inpainting had been applied to mask the enhanced edges. The old lining was removed and the painting was restretched to its original size. Losses were filled and inpainted. As a precaution, strip lining was added to stabilize the fabric where it had been weakened by folding and tacking, but the picture was left otherwise unlined. As a final step, the painting was placed in a period frame. This time, the frame was resized to fit the masterpiece, rather than the other way around. The painting is expected to go to auction later this year. j C Williamstown Art Conservation Center  |  7


Feature

Consummate Warhol In 1962, Andy Warhol upended the art world when he exhibited thirtytwo paintings of Campbell’s Soup cans in a Los Angeles gallery. Except for the flavor of soup on the label, the images of the ubiquitous cans were nearly identical. The banal, aggressively aloof “still lifes” were a challenge, simultaneously, to the history of art, the intense subjectivity of Abstract Expressionism, and American consumerism. Warhol emerged as the avatar of Pop Art, a movement whose irony, ambivalent commentary and subversive detachment are still felt in the country today.

In “Warhola Becomes Warhol—Andy Warhol: Early Work,” an exhibition at the Williams College Museum of Art, the artist’s metamorphosis from Pittsburgh-born commercial artist to international superstar is traced in works ranging from whimsical illustrations of shoes to iconic portraits, collages, and wallpaper. In preparation for display, a Campbell’s soup can signed by Warhol was brought to the Williamstown Art Conservation Center for restoration.

Corrosion threatened both the can itself, made of tin-plated iron, and its paper label. The first step was to remove the label without damaging the paper or the signature. Paper conservator Leslie Paisley carefully documented the exact position of the label in relation to a stamped date on the top of the can. She separated its adhesive edge with a microspatula and undermined the three glue points that hold the paper to the can; then, using a surgical scalpel, she removed a thin residue of rust from the back of the clay-coated label. After treatment of the can was completed, Paisley precisely reattached the label, complete with a slight misalignment of the edges at the top of the seam.

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Various treatments of the metal can were considered, including covering the entire surface with an thin “barrier” layer of mylar, aluminum leaf or foil tape, all of which were finally rejected as impractical. The decision was made simply to remove as much of the corrosion as possible with a dissolving lubricant, then brush on a protective coat of acrylic resin. “You can’t completely stop corrosion like this once it begins,” noted objects conservator Gerri Ann Strickler. Translation: Rust never sleeps.

At some point in the can’s life, a pencil-sized hole was drilled into its bottom and the soup drained out. A rattle suggested that not everything had been removed, however, so the can was rinsed with acetone and ethanol, yielding loosened particles of rust and what Strickler termed, “other debris.” “It was clear brown,” she observed of the matter that emerged from within. “Something more organic.”

The can became the centerpiece of the Williams exhibit, dramatically isolated in a large case and illuminated by four spotlights. But is the work really by Warhol? It was part of the collection of Richard Holmes, a Williams grad and early enthusiast of the artist, who recently gifted his extensive Warhol holdings to the college. Did Warhol sign the soup can as a Duchampian gesture of appropriation? No, said Holmes—“I asked him to.” What’s more, in an irony Warhol might have appreciated, the felt-tipped autograph is growing inexorably fainter. “The signature will be the next thing to go,” observed Leslie Paisley. “It will fade away.” j C

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Feature

An Old Frame’s Reminiscences An original 1845 Asher B. Durand frame epitomizes a classic American style by Hugh Glover

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n February 2007, the original frame to the 1845 idyll An Old Man’s Reminiscences was reunited with the painting by the famed American landscapist Asher B. Durand. They had been separated for fifty years, after the frame had become too deteriorated for exhibition. Age had broken much of the ornament off its surface, and grime and paint had obscured the original gilding. The frame was brought to the Williamstown Art Conservation Center for restoration so it could accompany the Durand on a national tour. Painting and frame had entered Section of the frame before treatment, showing the collection of the losses of ornamentation at left and along the Albany Institute outer edges. of History & Art (then called the Albany Gallery of Fine Art) in 1847, just two years after Durand created it. The landscape is one of the centerpieces of the museum’s Hudson River School collection. The large frame is constructed of a pine substrate with applied molded composition (compo) ornamentation. (The putty-like compo was made of a combination of animal glue, water, resin, linseed oil and chalk powder.) This quicker, less expensive process was popular for most of the 19th-century, and contrasts with frames entirely of carved wood. The Durand frame’s mass, profile, ornament, color, and gilded effects all epitomize the fashionable tastes of 1845. Its details are far from unique. The same design, with different corner treatments, can be found on at least one 10  |  Art Conservator  |  May 2007

other Hudson River School painting. The main molding profile is an ogee (S profile) decorated with alternating scrolled foliage of compo. The bold corners have cartouches flanked by acanthus volutes, a scrolled foliate form derived from the Mediterranean acanthus plant. There are no embellished center ornaments. The main molding is impressed with a woven tulle-net texture, a checkered decoration that mimics the laborious cross-hatching cut into gesso of the previous century. The texture was created with tulle netting being pressed into wet gesso before the compo was applied. Other, earlier examples of this technique have a raised-net texture with the tulle left in place. The frame’s profile also includes an outside scotia (a concave scoop) and back-edge molding. The gilding is typical of the 1840s as well. Oil gilding and burnished corner details cover the ogee and its compo decoration, and water gilding occurs on the plain surfaces, including a burnished ovolo (a half-round molding) close to the sight edge, and a matted cavetto (concave quarter-circle molding) and outside cove. The redder shade of gold is the result of alloying the metal with more copper instead of silver, and was probably intentional. The colors of the bole (the clay preparatory layer beneath the gold leaf) are dark red and grey, also true to the period. The wood substrate and corner joinery are also typical of the period, using clear white pine with mitered, glued, and nailed corners. The rails are laminated for efficient use of wood to create the large profile, and the reverse has a square recess fitted with supporting glue blocks. The rails are made in two parts, an outer section with the main ogee profile, and an inner section with the sight moldings. The sections are seated together in a rebate and fastened using cut nails driven into the glue blocks. The outside scotia is outlined by a back-edge compo molding close to the wall, an


Asher B. Durand’s 1845 An Old Man’s Reminiscences in its newly restored original frame.

arrangement that was popular during the second half of the 19th century. The large size of the main ogee and outer scotia suggest that these molding profiles may have been made on mechanical shaping and molding machines, rather than being cut by hand-operated molding-planes. Such machines, which increased production and cut manufacturing costs, were just at the development and patent stage around the time the frame was made. The frame’s conservation treatment took about one hundred thirty hours, and involved common frame issues. Some one hundred thirtyfive pieces of compo scroll were missing and had to be remade by molding and casting epoxy replacements, then adhering them in place. Loose elements were secured, and the gilding had to be

cleared of grime and two generations of partial bronze paint. Once revealed, the original gilt work fortunately was in very good condition. Painting and frame were reunited for the exhibition “Kindred Spirits: Asher B. Durand and the American Landscape,” which opened at the Brooklyn Museum in March, and will be at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in September and the San Diego Museum of Art in 2008. j CC Support for this conservation treatment came from The Henry Luce Foundation and the Conservation Grants Programs of the Lower Hudson Conference of Historical Agencies and Museums. The project was completed at WACC by Kat Geng, conservation technician, and Hugh Glover, chief conservator for furniture and wooden objects. Williamstown Art Conservation Center  |  11


Feature

A Bouguereau Resurrection

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illiam Bouguereau (1825-1905) was an artistic celebrity among American Gilded Age collectors in 1889, the year he painted the large religious scene Our Lady of the Angels. The painting, typical of the high French Academic style, was exhibited at the 1893 Columbian World Exhibition in Chicago, the last known time it was seen publicly. At some point in the decades that followed, the picture was ravaged by fire, and extensive repairs were attempted on the faces of the main figures. Fast-forward to 2005, when a Catholic convent in the Catskills retained the Williamstown Art Conservation Center to completely restore the painting. The Sisters had, years earlier, received the painting as a gift, and now wished to sell it to raise funds for the cloister. The job, to say the least, was extensive, as WACC director and chief paintings conservator Tom Branchick explained in an interview with Art Conservator.

Tom Branchick: Sometime, we don’t know when, the upper third of the painting was blistered by fire, and as a result the faces of the Christ child and the Virgin were completely overpainted. When the Sisters asked, “What can you do for this?” I wasn’t absolutely sure. Without knowing what was underneath those two faces, one couldn’t know how successful the restoration effort was going to be. Passages that are totally overpainted are usually like that for a reason—either somebody’s inept at really painstaking inpainting, or there’s nothing left underneath to reconstruct from. That was the big gamble. I didn’t know the answers to any of this. This was a treatment where the painting was calling the shots. 12  |  Art Conservator  |  May 2007


Hopefully, when the overpaint, carbon smoke and varnish were taken off, there was going to be enough of the original surface to reconstruct from. Whoever had been there before had just painted over the existing faces. It was like they had masks on. Nothing was left of Bouguereau. Fortunately, the overpaint would come off. It was oil sitting on top of the discolored varnish. Generally, the problem with removing oil overpaint is its tendency to cross-link to the original surface. Since it’s oil on oil, removing the overpaint runs the risk of etching the original surface as well. In this case, however, the discolored varnish acted as an interlayer over the original paint. I was able to dissolve the varnish layer and the overpaint essentially just floated off. Art Conservator: In essence , the dirt was protecting it. Exactly. This was one of those weird treatments where perhaps divine intervention entered into it so that the painting could come back. The inpainting process was very meticulous, because this was so broadly overpainted. I had to interpret what was missing from what was left behind. It was a painstaking, connect-the-dots routine. The entire treatment took nearly two hundred hours to complete. What else did you discover about the picture? After taking off the varnish and seeing that the overpaint was soluble, I uncovered a pair of putti [the angel figures] in the upper right corner, where the smoke and fire damage was. And they were practically in

Opposite: Bouguereau’s Our Lady of the Angels after treatment. Above: A detail of the painting before treatment.

original condition. That was amazing. Usually a picture like this would have been cleaned between 1889 and now, but I don’t think it was. It had at least two or three varnish layers on top of it, and whoever did the overpainting of the losses in the faces and the sky had rendered the ethereal putti up there fairly invisible. It looked like a big cloud in the corner, or actually, more like a big wasp nest in the sky. I wasn’t even aware they were there. We were able to dig up an old photo of the painting—it could possibly even been taken as the picture came out of the artist’s studio —and there they are. Sometimes the best conservation treatments are

resurrections. This one definitely was of that ilk. What did the treatment reveal about the kind of painter Bouguereau was? You just need to look at how adept he was at blending color in very broad strokes. Look at the faces of the putti—he was applying very thin areas of paint, and you can see, that’s one stroke to get that blush on that cheek. When you look at all the flesh tones, the same kinds of things are going on. There’s a highlight on one of the putti’s outstretched arms. Again, one stroke. This isn’t a tiny brush. It’s a wide brush. He was so agile in what he was doing. j C Williamstown Art Conservation Center  |  13


Report from Atlanta

New Life for a Civil War Steamboat

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dward Everard Arnold (1816-1866) spent most of the last twenty years of his life living and painting in New Orleans. Born in Germany, he moved to the Southern port in 1846, where he worked in watercolors and oils, specializing in ship portraits and, later, battle scenes. He spent the first two years of the Civil War in Havana, returning to New Orleans in 1863. His 1865 The Side-Wheeler Cornudella Running the Union Blockade under the Mexican Flag illustrates the measures Confederate merchants took to evade U.S. warships following the fall of New Orleans in 1862. The 22-by-30-inch picture is one of many ship paintings owned by a private New Orleans family. Like so much art, the painting suffered considerable damage as 14  |  Art Conservator  |  May 2007

a direct result of Hurricane Katrina. The owners, like many New Orleans residents, left behind most of their belongings when they fled the storm. The paintings were left hanging on the walls. Flood waters rose approximately six feet in the home, submerging the bottom third of the Cornudella. Although the canvas was wax-lined during a previous restoration, it distorted and shrank, causing significant tenting and paint loss. As the water subsided, residues were left behind and mold began to grow on the surface. The old restorations were visible and heavy –handed. In order to repair the damage caused by Katrina, the old restorations also had to be removed. Without disturbing the flaking paint, dry mold spores were removed before any

other treatment could take place. Flaking paint was set down where possible, leaving behind significant areas of unconsolidated flaking and tenting. Grime and flood residues were removed from the areas of consolidated paint with aqueous cleaning solutions. To fully consolidate the remaining loose paint, it was necessary first to remove the existing wax lining. The amount of loose paint presented a challenge in this regard, since flipping the work over was not an option. The canvas had to be raised up on blocks and worked on from underneath. The painting was separated from its lining-canvas with a spatula to break the wax bond, and wax removed from the edges of the original canvas with petroleum-based solvents.


Edward Everard Arnold’s Cornudella after Hurricane Katrina, showing water damage and surface distortions and, above, after treatment at AACC. In order to allow attachment to a working strainer, Hollytex polyester strips were cut into 1½ -inch “fingers” and adhered to the underside of the canvas along the edges. The canvas was then stretched onto the

this step, the raised flakes of paint would have had no surface to sit back down on. The canvas was humidified from the reverse by laying it on moistened blotters. Once humidified, tension was placed

Like so much art, the painting suffered considerable damage as a direct result of Hurricane Katrina. strainer and elevated off the worktable to gain better access to the reverse, keeping the picture flat at all times. Once elevated, the remaining wax was removed as thoroughly as possible. Before the flaking paint could be reconsolidated, it was necessary to reverse the effects of canvas shrinkage caused by moisture damage. Without

on the Hollytex fingers to gently pull the canvas, to undo the surface undulations and begin to regain some of the lost area. This process was repeated several times a day over the course of five days. The procedure succeeded in regaining approximately 1/8-inch to 3/16-inch of the total shrinkage loss (estimated at about a 1/4-inch). It proved impossible to regain

the entire original canvas area. Attention was turned next to the paint surface itself. Under a microscope, the remaining flaking paint was set back down on the canvas. To further consolidate the paint layer, synthetic adhesive was brushed onto the canvas reverse and infused on a vacuum hot table. Only at this point could the old varnish and previous overpainting be removed, exposing the original surface damage which included large paint losses and removal of much of the more thinly applied upper paint layers which often contain the artist’s final subtle details.. All these losses were filled and inpainted. The Cornudella was given a new canvas lining support and new stretcher. The flood had rendered the old stretcher so mold infested it was unusable. Williamstown Art Conservation Center  |  15


WACC News & Notes

Objects Lab Renews Dallas Decorative Fans

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n 18th-century France, the folding fan was a popular fashion accessory both in court and throughout common society. Women carried decorative fans not only for comfort, but also as status symbols and aids in flirtation. The 18th century was a golden age for the folded fan throughout Europe. It had been brought from China two centuries earlier, and by the mid-1700s had become the province of specialized craftsmen, who transformed the simple implement into an elaborate and ornate art object. Six decorated fans of the era were treated recently by the WACC Department of Objects Conservation. They are part of the Dallas Museum of Arts’ collection of some thirty-two ornate fans, nearly all of them from the 18th century. Five of the six fans that arrived in Williamstown will be part of an upcoming exhibition at the museum, and needed stabilization and restoration before going on display. Objects conservator Gerri Ann Strickler examined the fans and found them

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Top: Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI are commemorated in a decorative 18th-century fan in the Dallas Museum of Art. Above, detail of leaf painting depicting Rebecca at the well. to be in reasonably good shape. The main components of a folding fan are the sticks—the spines or supports that join at a single riveted hinge at the base of the fan—and the leaf, the large folded body of the fan, usually made of paper, vellum (animal skin) or silk. The leaf is

attached to the sticks on ribs that extend up through the folded material. The Dallas fans are notable for their flamboyance —the sticks are of mother-of-pearl, ivory or bone, decorated with piercings, ornamental appliqué and gold or silver, while the leaves were predominantly painted


silk detailed with sequins, costume jewels, gold thread, even decorative straw. The most vulnerable part of the old fans were the accordion folds, the result of centuries of use and storage. Strickler found tears and weak points along the folds of all the silk fans. “Fabric that old loses its suppleness,” she said. “The fibers don’t want to give, they want to break.” She reinforced the compromised areas with Japanese paper, Stabiltex (an open-weave polyester fabric) and sprayapplied adhesive. The Stabiltex and adhesive allowed for maximum adherence with minimal contact on the old fabric. Handling and oxidation had left the sticks in need of thorough cleaning and some small repairs. Mild enzymatic solutions were used to restore the luster of the mother-of-pearl and remove tarnish corrosion on the metal leaf. In some cases, the silver had been worn so thin that cleaning would have removed it completely, and so was left untouched. The painted passages on the leaves are undoubtedly the most impressive aspect of the Dallas fans. These include coquettish courtship scenes, landmarks of the Grand Tour, medallion portraits of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, and the Bible episode of Rebecca at the well. “The imagery was often copied directly from paintings in the Paris Salon,” explained the Dallas Museum’s Heather MacDonald, assistant curator of painting and sculpture. MacDonald has organized an exhibit of the fans titled, “A Painting in the Palm of Your Hand: 18th-Century Painted Fans From the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection,” which runs from June 17 through Oct. 14. Gerri Strickler felt the intimacy of the fans while she was working on them, a sense of the women who had held them before her. Back in Dallas, it was Strickler’s conservation that MacDonald observed. “I really respect and appreciate all the work Gerri did,” she said. “The fans look so much more vivid and intact. More like themselves.”

Some objects defy easy classification for placing in the care of any one conservation discipline, and conservators may assemble as a team to represent multiple skills and different specialties for certain projects. The treatment of the 1825 M. Lord tavern sign from Effingham, N.H. was the collaboration of six conservators and technicians from the paintings and furniture and wooden objects departments at WACC. Despite having been stored in a barn for more than a hundred years, the sign was in quite remarkable condition. Restoration of the object, which was brought to the lab by art dealer David Schorsch, was limited to removal of certain larger damages incurred during the time in the barn. After thorough documentation, treatment steps involved consolidation of friable paint, cleaning of grime, dust and pest stains, reproduction of a lost finial and length of ogee molding, some surface fills, and matte inpainting. Most of these operations were completed in the furniture lab by conservators Erika Sanchez and Hugh Glover and technician Kat Geng, while cleaning and inpainting were supervised by Mary Catherine Betz and Montserrat Le Mense in the paintings department. After research, paintings conservator Michael Heslip suggested possible attribution of the sign to either John Usher Parsons (1806-1874) or Royall Brewster Smith (1801-1849), itinerant artists active in the region during the 1830’s. The project was completed when Bill Senseney, a local blacksmith, fashioned a metal bracket for mounting to the wall. Williamstown Art Conservation Center  |  17


WACC News & Notes

Leslie Paisley seals edges of glazing and mount for a Mary Cassatt pastel. Right: Detail of serrated eyelash hinge.

New Support for A Cassatt Pastel

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pastel drawing by Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) was recently brought to WACC warped so severely its powdery-chalk surface was nearly rubbing against the glass of the frame. The treatment offered an object lesson in modern advances of mounting works on paper. Chief paper conservator Leslie Paisley estimated that the work had most recently been mounted and framed within fifty years. The undated pastel of a blond girl measures slightly larger than 28 by 19 inches, and was done by Cassatt on heavy blue-gray drawing paper. It had been mounted using hide glue on brown kraft paper, and stretched over a wooden strainer. Wooden spacers were used to separate the artwork and the glass. The cause of the warping centered

18  |  Art Conservator  |  May 2007

around the kraft paper, a non-archival wood pulp material once common for wrapping packages. Warping had occurred in part because the adhesive had failed between the pastel and the brown backing paper, but a more insidious cause had to do with the properties of the different papers involved. Cassatt’s art paper was very likely hand-made, and reacted differently to environmental conditions than the thinner, machine-produced kraft paper. The distortion was the result of the two papers expanding and contracting at different rates. When the backing paper was removed, the drawing flattened naturally without further intervention. The pastel was remounted using an eyelash hinge, a serrated strip of Japanese paper. Wheat paste was applied only to the tips or “eyelashes” of the paper,

creating a mounting margin that is strong with a minimum of adhesive. The work was then mounted on a support of 1/4” honey-combed aluminum faced with archival mat board. The aluminum support is considerably more rigid than the previous wood strainer, yet half the thickness, allowing more space between the art and the glazing. The existing window glass was replaced by a laminated, non-reflective, shatter-proof, UV-absorbing glass. The work was sealed from dust, insects and moisture with clear polyester tape, and reframed. The drawing, which had been hanging in a private home, will now be housed in a museum climate. The private owners have arranged for their Cassatt, titled L’enfant Blonde, to be on long-term loan at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute.


WACC Staff

Treatment Report Object:

Cal Ripkin Ankle Brace Owner:

National Baseball Hall of Fame Background:

Worn by Ripkin in 1985; suffered cracks during traveling exhibit

1. Medical tapes were removed and

2.

3. 4.

5.

Velco peeled back. The two halves of the brace were reconstructed using a copolymer resin and Japanese tissue. Not all edges joined in-plane, possibly due to some distortion or spring upon breakage. Further repair was needed along some of the breaks with a slightly stronger emulsion adhesive. Small fills along the front of the repairs were made with acrylic molding paste as needed. The signature was avoided, filling between words and wider letter gaps. Losses were toned, where visible, using acrylic paint. A mount suitable for travel/storage/display was made using a prefabricated microfoam museum “leg” support. The support was trimmed, shaped and padded to fit the brace and not appear as a leg, per the client’s request. Small strips of spun polyester were placed within the Velcro enclosures to weaken them and provide less strain on the brace material during handling.

Note: The brace is fragile and requires minimal handling and low light levels to prevent fading of the inscription as well as embrittlement of the brace material. The Velcro straps should remain engaged at all times.

Thomas J. Branchick Director; Conservator of Paintings/ Dept. Head Teresa Beer Accounts Manager Mary Catherine Betz Assistant Conservator of Paintings Rob Conzett Office Assistant-Full Time Katrin Geng Conservation Technician Hugh P. Glover Conservator of Furniture and Wood Objects/Dept. Head Matthew Hamilton Photography Technician Michael L. Heslip Conservator of Paintings Katherine A. Holbrow Conservator of Objects/Dept. Head Rebecca Johnston Conservator of Paper Henry Klein Conservation Technician Montserrat M.M. Le Mense Associate Conservator of Paintings Cynthia Luk Conservator of Paintings Yasuko Ogino Associate Conservator of Paintings and Frames, Atlanta Leslie H. Paisley Conservator of Paper/Dept. Head Susan Scherr Part Time Office Assistant James Squires Associate Conservator of Paintings, Atlanta Gerri Ann Strickler Associate Conservator of Objects Katherine B. Tremblay Office Manager Sandra L. Webber Conservator of Paintings

Williamstown Art Conservation Center  |  19


WACC News & Notes

tions about a series of Andy Warhol works on paper currently on exhibit at Williams College.

Elianny Camilo, 17, an ABC scholar and senior at Mt. Greylock High School, will take part in a senior internship at WACC from May 11 to June 1. Elianny, originally from New York City, is sponsored by Greylock ABC, local chapter of A Better Chance Inc, a national program that helps under-represented youth assume positions of responsibility and leadership in American society. At WACC, she will work daily doing simple supervised work in the furniture and wood objects lab. Paintings conservator Sandra Webber describes her work on a medieval panel painting for WACC Friends Circle members.

WACC has been awarded a $40,000 grant to support an exploratory exchange program with Mongolia. The grant, from the New York-based Trust for Mutual Understanding, will fund collaboration between WACC and Mongolian cultural officials, including the Arts Council of Mongolia, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, and the Cultural Heritage Center in the capital Ulaanbaatar. A delegation of WACC conservators will visit Mongolia for two weeks in July to receive an overview of conservation activities, including important meetings at the Ministry where Mongolian national preservation needs and goals will be discussed. In October three Mongolian conservators are tentatively scheduled to visit Williamstown to view our operations and visit some member museums. Future collaborations are expected to evolve. Paper conservation department head Leslie Paisley attended a workshop on treatment options for black-and-white silver gelatin photographs at the National Con20  |  Art Conservator  |  May 2007

servation Training Center in Shepardstown, West Virginia. The four-day workshop, sponsored by AIC (the American Institute for Conservaion of Historic and Artistic Works), combined lecture demonstrations of traditional and innovative treatment practices with laboratory work on actual photographs. Participants learned a variety of remedial conservation procedures to protect and stabilize silver gelatin prints.

WACC conservators Sandra Webber and Hugh Glover

were part of a team of experts taking part in “Find Out About Your Work of Art,” an event organized by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute Library. Museum members were invited to research art they owned with the conservators and Clark librarians and curators. Transitions:

Xian Zhang

m  The Williamstown Art Conservation Center Friends Circle, led by Ann Blake and Carol Stegeman, continues to grow. The Friends Circle, open to the public by subscription, allows members to see behind the scenes at WACC. Earlier this year, ten people took part in “Restoring Life to an Art Work: An Insiders View” at the Center. The event featured paintings conservator Sandra Webber describing the complex stages of reconstruction of the damaged medieval Spanish painting St. Anthony Abbot by Pedro Garcia de Beneberre. Leslie Paisley, head of the paper department, also answered ques-

Katrin Geng

has accepted a position as conservation scientist at the lab. She is scheduled to begin July 1. Furniture Technician

Katrin Geng is leaving the center May 31 to pursue travel to Mexico and beyond. Erika Sanchez, former Master Apprentice in Furniture and Wood Objects, is engaged in a nine-month contract with the Metropolitan Museum of Art as part of a team reinstalling the museum’s Period Rooms.


Tech Notes, Spring 2007

Annual Maintenance Programs for Outdoor Sculpture Katherine A. Holbrow

M

aintaining outdoor sculptures can be a very challenging problem for conservators, curators and collectors alike. Outdoor art works are frequently very large in scale, and for design reasons may often be installed in inaccessible locations (such as reflecting pools or tall pedestals). Exposure to extremes of weather, and to continued public contact, causes degradation and damage to occur more quickly than is true for most other art collections. These factors combine to make conservation of outdoor works both frequently necessary and very costly. Unfortunately, the high cost of outdoor sculpture maintenance is often unanticipated by the owners. Decisions to exhibit public monuments and outdoor works are made through a variety of channels (during an architectural expansion, perhaps, or through veterans groups or arts committees), and often without consulting museum professionals. Ideally, the “hidden” costs of outdoor sculptures should be evaluated prior to acquisition, and again before installation. Often, maintenance costs could be much reduced by choosing more durable materials or practical locations; all too often these realizations come too late. Take a proactive approach  As with all art, preventive care is the best defense. Preservation plans for outdoor sculptures should always include a schedule of regular maintenance, including inspections and documentation of condition, periodic cleaning and minor conservation. Minor touch-ups can keep a sculpture looking its best between major treatment campaigns, and annual inspections can catch small problems before they become big ones. Outdoor sculpture exists in the public forum, and provides countless opportunities for arts education. It follows that a good annual maintenance plan can make the most of local participation. Publicizing the goals of a maintenance program also helps to discourage vandalism. Community volunteers and student assistance promote arts awareness as well as mitigate costs. Maintenance programs can be more reliable and cost-efficient if they rely on in-house staff, rather than on outside contract conservators. Even minimal washing and waxing can be time-consuming and expensive on a per-hour rate. The weather may cause delays, and other public events often conflict. Counting on a visit-

ing conservation team to complete a comprehensive cleaning program in one tightly-scheduled visit may be impractical. Instead, museum staff may find it more realistic to plan periodic work days (or work weeks) for cleaning on a flexible schedule, spaced throughout the summer months. Conservation expertise is a necessary component of any maintenance program, of course, and an efficient program will use that expertise to the best advantage. An efficient method may be to have a conservation team spend several days on-site at the beginning of the summer, to help launch the program, make initial assessments of the sculptures, and to provide expert assistance. Once underway, conservator participation can be limited to briefer visits, telephone consultations, and major treatments. General maintenance procedures  Documentation is an important first step in any conservation maintenance program. One useful method for record-keeping is to create a loose-leaf binder containing separate indexed entries for each sculpture. Images and diagrams, annual maintenance logs, and an initial thorough examination can be kept in each section for easy reference. For most sculptures, an annual maintenance program should include regular washing with light hose pressure, using a dilute solution of mild detergent in water1 followed by water rinse. Use soft, nylon bristle brushes or sponges to apply the detergent.2 Proper washing and wax maintenance will also provide the opportunity to examine the sculpture closely. Changes in surface patina, pitting/streaking or other evidence of corrosion, blanching, structural problems or damage should be documented. The environmental conditions surrounding an outdoor sculpture can affect its condition. Encroaching vegetation, which may encourage bird, animal, and vandal activity, should be cleared. Weep holes in the sculpture should always be kept clear to allow water drainage. Protective roofing or enclosures should be considered for the winter months in colder climates. Whenever possible, discourage the public from touching or climbing on outdoor sculptures. Applied surface coatings are easily scratched, and will be worn away by excessive handling. Natural barriers such as landscaping (e.g., plants or gravel to discourage skateboarders and bicycles), adequate lighting at night, and security patrols can reduce the need for expensive repairs. Choosing protective coatings for outdoor sculpture Many sculptures, especially metal ones, can benefit from using “sacrificial” protective coatings. An inert, transparent coating is applied over the finished sculpture, which can be removed (without damaging the artWilliamstown Art Conservation Center  |  21


work below) and replaced as it becomes dirty or worn. Regular application and renewal of protective coatings can be cost-effective means of prolonging the life of the sculpture, since they are much less intrusive and less expensive to replace or adjust than are the artist’s original surfaces. Wax is a common, easy and effective choice for protecting metals and other materials both indoors and out. It is used on most bronzes and on some painted sculptures. Wax can be tinted, and hardness can be adjusted by mixing waxes of different molecular weights. Protective wax coatings are inexpensive and easily reversible, but are not as durable as harder resins or varnish coatings. Wax coatings should be renewed regularly (once or twice a year depending on conditions). Application of wax is a relatively safe and simple process, and can be carried out by the owner or a staff member with basic training. A hard, transparent, paste wax3 should be applied thinly and evenly or excess wax will build up, collect foreign airborne debris, and blanch (turning white or light gray) with time. Multiple thin coats of hard wax, compacted by buffing, are preferable to a single, thick application, making it more laborintensive than other coatings. In some cases, a harder, more durable coating than wax may be needed. A mirror-bright finish may require greater protection than wax can offer, for example, or a sculpture’s inaccessible site could make annual maintenance too difficult. Acrylic resins, developed for outdoor use, are typically recommended in such a case.4 Unlike wax, resins coalesce as they cure to form a water-impermeable barrier. Resins can also contain useful additives such as ultraviolet light absorbers or graffiti-releasing agents, and can be appropriate coatings for painted polychrome sculptures as well. Acrylic resins can be more time-consuming and difficult to apply than wax. Resins often contain hazardous organic components (such as toluene), and so should be

applied by trained professionals with appropriate safety controls in place. Resins form a cohesive film, linked on a molecular level, which can flake or peel in an unsightly manner when it begins to degrade. Thus, renewal of such coatings must be preceded by thorough removal. Incralac™ acrylic resin is often chosen by conservators as a protective coating for patinated bronze sculptures. Developed by the corrosion engineers and intended for use in the electronics industry,5 Incralac contains a corrosion inhibitor benzotriazole that can help to protect bronze. While offering added protection, Incralac is typically applied in the aromatic solvent toluene, and so needs special safety considerations and conservation expertise. It should only be applied, removed, or otherwise treated under the supervision of a conservator. Like all outdoor coatings, Incralac may require touching up every few years, and ideally should be renewed overall every ten years or so, depending on environmental conditions. Again, regular annual maintenance (and even additional wax layers) can protect the Incralac coating and add years to its lifespan. Summary Outdoor sculpture maintenance requires permanent, long-term commitment of museum staff and funds. Careful planning and good management can stretch budgets for this necessary, but expensive, aspect of collections care, as can good public education and volunteer programs. j C 1 Different surfactants are appropriate for different substrates. For most metal or painted surfaces, one teaspoon/ gallon of mild anionic synthetic detergent such as Orvus WA Paste, available from Conservation Support Systems, telephone 800-482-6299, is appropriate. 2 Soft bristle brushes with plastic handle and ferrule for dusting, cleaning and wax application are available from autobody supply companies such as Griot’s Garage, telephone: 800-345-5789. 3 Such as Butcher’s White Diamond paste wax, available at most hardware stores. 4 Historically, natural resins such as shellac, and oils including linseed oil have been used but these are not currently recommended because sunlight exposure and weathering can make removal very difficult. 5 Developed by INCRA, the International Copper Research Association, now the International Copper Association (ICA). b  katherine

s. holbrow is chief conservator of objects

at the Williamstown Art Conservation Center. In addition to degrees from Amherst College (1984) and the University of Massachusetts (1990), she earned her MS in conservation from the University of Delaware/Winterthur Museum Art Conservation Program in 1994. She is a Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation.

22  |  Art Conservator  |  May 2007


Members of the Consortium

Williamstown

Henry Sheldon Museum

Rhode Island School of Design

Art Conservation Center

of Vermont History

Museum of Art

—225 South Street

—Williamstown, MA 01267

—Middlebury, VT

Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art,

Richard F. Brush Art Gallery,

Cornell University

St. Lawrence University

Phillips Academy

Historic Deerfield, Inc.

Albany Institute of History and Art —Albany, NY Alice T. Miner Colonial Collection —Chazy, NY The Arkell Museum at Canajoharie —Canajohari, NY

—Ithaca, NY —Deerfield, MA

Hofstra Museum, Hofstra University

—Hempstead, NY

—Glens Falls, NY

Art Complex Museum

The Lawrenceville School

—Duxbury, MA

Atlanta Historical Society, Inc.

—Atlanta, GA

Bennington Museum

—Bennington, VT

Berkshire Museum

—Pittsfield, MA

Bowdoin College Museum of Art —Brunswick, ME

—Lawrenceville, NJ

for member institutions, and for other non-profit organizations,

—Potsdam, NY

tion of works of art and objects of cultural interest; to participate in the

—Springfield, MA

the importance of conservation

Mead Art Museum,

Art Institute

and increase the awareness of the

Amherst College

—Amherst, MA

—Williamstown, MA

Memorial Art Gallery,

George L.K. Morris Foundation

University of Rochester

—Rochester, NY

Middlebury College Museum of Art

—Middlebury, VT

Manchester Historical Society Colby College Museum of Art

—Athens, PA

Union College —Schenectady, NY —Montpelier, VT

Vermont Museum and Gallery

Institute Museum of Art

Alliance

—Hartford, CT

seminate knowledge to advance the profession.

Tioga Point Museum

—Utica, NY

Museum of Connecticut History

—Waterville, ME

Connecticut Historical Society

—South Hadley, MA

Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts

and to conduct research and dis-

—Lenox, MA

Vermont Historical Society

issues pertinent to collections care;

Suzy Frelinghuysen and

—Manchester, CT

training of conservators; to promote

Sterling and Francine Clark

Mount Holyoke College

respect to the care and conserva-

Association

Art Museum

—Deerfield, MA

conduct educational programs with

Springfield Library and Museums

Deerfield Academy The Cheney Homestead of the

corporations and individuals; to

—St. Johnsbury, VT

Charles P. Russell Gallery,

and related conservation services

State University of New York St. Johnsbury Athenaeum

The Hyde Collection

—Elmira, NY

—Corning, NY

Arnot Art Museum

of our cultural heritage; to provide examination, treatment, consultation,

Roland Gibson Gallery,

Dartmouth College —Hanover, NH

non-profit institution, is to protect,

The Rockwell Museum

—Shelburne, VT

Williams College Museum of Art —Williamstown, MA

Neuberger Museum, Purchase College,

Atlanta Art Conservation Center

The Daura Gallery

State University of New York

—6000 Peachtree Road

at Lynchburg College

—Atlanta, GA 30341

—Hartford, CT

—Lynchburg, VA

—Amherst, MA

The Farnsworth Art Museum

—Rockland, ME

Fort Ticonderoga

—Ticonderoga, NY

Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College

—Poughkeepsie, NY

—Purchase, NY

New Hampshire Historical Society

Albany Museum of Art

Office of General Services,

Empire State Plaza Art Collection

Booth Western Art Museum

—Albany, NY

at Stockbridge

—Stockbridge, MA

—Ogdensburg, NY

—Columbia, SC

The Columbus Museum

Picker Art Gallery,

Colgate University

High Museum of Art

—Hamilton, NY

Portland Museum of Art

—Cartersville, GA

Columbia Museum of Art

—Clinton, NY

—Albany, GA

Norman Rockwell Museum

Hamilton College Frederic Remington Art Museum

—Montgomery, AL

New York State

Fred L. Emerson Gallery,

Alabama Historical Commission

—Concord, NH

Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

he mission of The Williamstown Art Conservation Center, a

conserve, and maintain the objects

—Canton, NY

Hood Museum of Art,

T

—Providence, RI

Addison Gallery of American Art, —Andover, MA

Mission Statement

—Portland, ME

—Columbus, GA —Atlanta, GA

Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts

—Montgomery, AL

Preservation Society

Morris Museum of Art

of Newport County

—Newport, RI

—Augusta, GA

Telfair Museum of Art

—Savannah, GA Williamstown Art Conservation Center  |  23


W i l l i a m s t o w n A r t C o n s e r v at i o n C e n t e r

art C onser v ator

W illiamstown , M A 0 1 2 6 7

2 2 5 S o u t h St r e e t

C hange S er v ice R e q u ested

Visit us Online: www . williamstownart. org

U . S . P ostage

N on - profit org .

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24  |  Art Conservator  |  May 2007

Profile for WACC

Art Conservator | Volume 2 No. 1  

Art Conservator | Volume 2 No. 1