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 2 • f a l l 2 0 0 7
Saving A Fallen Saint Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 1
Contents, Fall 2007
Art Conservator Volume 2, Number 2 • Fall 2007
3 Director’s Letter
Director Thomas J. Branchick Editor Timothy Cahill Art Direction and Layout Kosak Design, Pittsburgh, PA Photographer Matthew Hamilton Contributors Sara Bisi, Hugh P. Glover, Cynthia Luk, Montserrat M.M. Le Mense, Leslie Paisley, James Squires, Sandra Webber Office Manager Katherine Tremblay Accounts Manager Teresa Beer Office Assistants Rob Conzett Susan Scherr Printing Network Printing Services, Pittsburgh, PA
4 A Saint’s Salvation
Williamstown Art Conservation Center 225 South Street Williamstown, MA 01267 www.williamstownart.org 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 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.
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Restoring a medieval panel painting, piece by piece By Sandra Webber
8 Gericault’s Dervish? Beneath an attribution mystery 10 Auspicious Vision Edward Wales Root’s American collection in Utica By Sara Bisi
12 Report from Atlanta Contemporary artworks in an Atlanta courthouse By James Squires
14 WACC News & Notes An enigmatic Courbet, mission to Mongolia, bent plywood chairs in Michigan and a round-up of new Center staff
18 Treatment Report A 4th-century Greek nestoris 19 Tech Notes Glazing materials used in framing By Leslie Paisley
From the Director
With 2007 fading fast, I’m pleased to point out that this year marked 30 years of service for the Williamstown Art Conservation Center since its founding in 1977. I started on the staff in 1980 as a thirdyear intern from the Cooperstown Conservation Training program (now moved to Buffalo). Over the years, we have worked on some incredible projects in all disciplines. The staff has grown. The space has grown. The membership has grown. The conservation field itself has grown and, in my opinion, has become wiser and “kinder and gentler.” We have trained many preprogram interns at WACC who have gone on to graduate school and then to successful careers. We have sent many third-year interns to major museum conservation labs. It has been a pleasure to work with so many dedicated staff members, from all the institutions we serve. Numerous friendships have been formed. As the institution has evolved, so has our board of trustees. The guidance we have received from both member- and public trustees has been crucial in shaping the Williamstown Art Conservation Center and the sterling reputation we have throughout New England and far beyond. As we all look back, we are also looking forward to our next chapter in March, 2008. The 31st year of WACC will dawn on the stellar stage of the new Stone Hill Center. The building is nearing completion as you read this. Throughout the winter, the fine-tooth details will be attended to and the systems double-checked. The formal move is planned for the last week in March, with specially trained movers we have worked with in the past on many off-site projects. (We can’t just put the vacuum hot table in the back of the van and drive it up the road, not to mention all the art in our care.) So, a toast: Here’s to our proud past, and to even better days ahead. —Thomas J. Branchick
The WACC meeting room in the new Stone Hill Center will look out on the dramatic, oblique-angle cutout in the concrete “seven wall,” designed by Tadao Ando, and woods beyond. The new facility is set to open in the spring.
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A Saint’s Salvation Restoring a medieval panel painting, piece by piece By Sandra Webber
arrived at the Williams College Museum of Art during the 2004 Memorial Day weekend to the cheers of the senior staff. I’d been called there on an emergency, but had no idea what to expect. They brought me upstairs to the museum’s medieval gallery, where I could instantly see their cause for alarm. On the stone floor lay WCMA’s large, 15th-centurySpanish panel portrait of Saint Anthony Abbot. A hanging wire had failed, and the panel, painted by Pedro Garcia de Benaberre around 1460, had fallen off the wall. By some miracle, when the wire broke, the massive, two-piece wooden panel (weighing in excess of 100 pounds) had dropped on its lower left corner, rotated, and landed on its left side. The staff found it leaning against the wall, surrounded by a widely scattered debris field. Had the picture fallen face down, the losses would have been far more catastrophic. On our hands and knees, the museum staff and I carefully collected the broken pieces of the Saint’s face, robes, gold work and frame, and placed them in a tray. Saint Anthony Abbot, also know as Anthony the Great and Anthony of Saint Anthony Abbot, by Pedro Garcia de Benaberre, after treatment. Opposite, a detail of the losses immediately after the portrait was damaged.
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the Desert, was the son of wealthy Egyptians before he renounced riches for the life of a Christian ascetic. Portraits depicting his life were a common motif in the Middle Ages, taken up by Bosch and Zurbaran as well as Garcia de Benaberre, a Spanish painter who lived and worked in Barcelona. His Saint Anthony arrived at the Conservation Center flat on its back, like a patient on a stretcher, and remained that way through much of the restoration. Although unfortunate, the accident provided WCMA with the opportunity of considering a long-needed, full-scale conservation treatment of the painting. Because of its size and scope, the project was designed in two phases: Phase I addressed the structural problems and cleaning, which included removal of many old restorations. Phase II essentially re-restored the entire work. Before anything else was done, the paint chips recovered from the fall were sorted by color and composition, and the broken pieces of frame were transferred to the furniture department. Treatment began by fingernailtapping the whole picture surface, to search for air pockets beneath the paint layer where the multiple layers of gesso that covered the wood panel had separated into thin, pastry-like layers. In fact, approximately 40 percent of the painting’s ground was, in essence, pulling apart, a condition attributable both to the fall and the age of the materials. Some losses had occurred over the vertical seam where gesso spanned the join in the two thick boards making up the panel, but most of the delamination was the result of weak, poorly made gesso. The areas for repair were outlined with chalk before being consolidated with warm gelatin adhesive, applied by syringe and brush and left under weights to dry. During the course of several weeks, about a quart of this liquid gelatin was injected into the ground layer to stabilize it. Although the time-consuming consolidation is hidden from view, it was the most important
process for the survival of the painting. The next step was assembling and inserting the dislodged paint fragments, a process not unlike putting together a puzzle, but infinitely more difficult. The pieces were in flakes and shards, without clean edges, and with paint overhanging the ground layer it was attached to, or vice versa. They tended to crumble when touched, and had to be reattached in groups for correct alignment, using dry assembly first to make sure all the pieces fit. I had to stop drinking coffee for days in order to realign Saint Anthony’s face. Along with the challenges, the process yielded a number of exciting discoveries. While resetting the paint chips in the robe, I noticed the black-painted apron had a gritty, sparkly blue layer beneath the black. Although paintings from this period were executed primarily in egg-tempera, the mineral blues—azurite and lapis lazuli—were sometimes bound in water-based media to retain their brightness of color. The aqueous binding medium in the apron may have rendered it more susceptible to damage from over-cleaning and staining, resulting in its being overpainted some time ago. By then, the original color may have darkened so much that black seemed the correct paint choice. When cleaned, however, the severely damaged blue layer re-emerged. Blue pigments shift color under different lighting, causing nightmares for conservators trying to match artists’ blue paint. With no accurate wavelength match for azurite among generally available synthetic blue pigments, I ordered the real mineral pigment and ground it to a workable paste in a stone mortar and pestle. A man-made substitute for lapis lazuli, known as ultramarine blue, has been available since the 1820s, and is considerably less expensive than the mineral itself. Both azurite and ultramarine were used to restore the apron. A side note: the medium for Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 5
The next step was assembling and inserting the dislodged paint fragments, a process not unlike putting together a puzzle, but infinitely more difficult.
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all the restorative painting was a synthetic resin varnish. Oil is no longer used as a medium among conservators. It darkens quickly and becomes insoluble, defeating two tenets of conservation treatment: longevity and reversibility. Removal of a reddish-brown varnish on the decorative goldwork along the top third of the painting not only brought back the brilliance of the water gilding, but also exposed the reason for the coating. Gilding is not normally varnished because it dulls the metal’s natural luster. But an earlier restorer had used a goldtoned varnish to mask repairs to that section, repairs made not with gold leaf but simply painted gesso. What’s more, the old restoration had left the Saint’s halo distorted and out of round. While puzzling over which of the gold repairs to rework, including the distorted halo bands, I found in Anthony Abbot’s cap the original compass centering hole Garcia de Benaberre had used to draw the holy nimbus. The arc of a compass placed in this centering mark revealed that the restored halo section was off by half an inch. Using a surgical scalpel, I removed the old repairs. As I got closer to what remained of the 15thcentury ground, I was thrilled to uncover
the original, perfectly circular series of punch marks between the two halo bands, the best possible confirmation of my decision. Restoration of the raised vines and halo sections within the painting’s gilded field required up to 25 layers of gesso. Applied as a warm liquid, each layer had to thoroughly dry before the next could be brushed on, and the shapes then smoothed and refined to match the surrounding original elements. In the Middle Ages, stipple-patterned punchwork, used to add contrast in the flat spaces between the raised vine and leaf patterns, was traditionally done by hammering an iron stamp into the gold leaf after it had been laid and burnished. Of course, I could not hammer on the 550-year-old painting, so fake punchwork was applied before gilding by twirling a small jeweler’s file into the gesso while it was still damp, one hole at a time. The sculpted white gesso was then ready for the color layer that holds the gold leaf in place. I initially tried using reversible gilding for this substrate layer, brushing on a red pigment ground
in varnish. Despite the double-thick, 24-karat gold leaf I applied atop this ground, I could not achieve a matching level of reflectance. I had to retrace my steps and remove the red, after which I applied the traditional water-based red bole, a pinkish, finely ground mineral clay suspended in a small amount of animal glue. Bole also provided the softness necessary for burnishing the gold after it was laid, which gave an even higher reflectance. After some distressing and toning, the brilliance of the new work finally matched the existing gilding. All in all, I worked on the Saint for more than 350 hours over a period of three years. Long, complex projects like this are infrequent, but absolutely wonderful experiences. Saint Anthony Abbot allowed me to study in-depth the methods and materials of the medieval painter’s craft, and to use some of those same techniques to bring the painting back to its original life and light. After three years away, the holy monk is ready to make his return to Williams College. j C
Stages of a saint’s revival, from left: chalk lines mark delaminated areas in need of consolidation; a Mylar-overlay map outlines gilded decorative passages for treatment; the radius of the original halo is measured to determine the correct arc for restoration; using a 1981 photograph for reference, conservator Sandra Webber inpaints the repaired face.
—Sandra Webber has been a Paintings Conservator at WACC since 1980. Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 7
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hile the painting known as Dervish in his Stall, owned by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, is attributed to the “School of Gericault,” some tantalizing evidence exists that the work may have been painted by Theodore Gericault (1791-1824) himself. In the studio sale after Gericault’s death, four small horse paintings were part of the sales record, one of which fits the description of a study of a horse named Dervish that Gericault is known to have made. These paintings were purchased in the sale by a Paris dealer named Brullon, who rented them to artists for copying. The Clark painting, which is oil on paper, mounted on canvas, is one of several known versions of this particular horse study. During a recent treatment of the Clark’s Dervish, WACC paintings conservator Sandra Webber discovered a faded ink inscription, Le Derviche, on the back; the inscription is too faint for the eye, but is clear under ultraviolet light. Both the fading and the UV visibility are attributes of aged iron-gall ink, a brown ink popular in Gericault’s time. Webber also observed that the picture’s wood strainer, which is original, contains a ragged section at the center of the top bar, suggesting it might have been hung repeatedly over a nail, rather than from picture wire or displayed in a frame. It is uncommon to see such strainer bar damage, but it might be explained if Brullon had kept the work on a nail in his shop for quick and easy handling. An even more compelling clue to the picture’s authorship is evidence of a drawing Webber found beneath the paint surface. Under infrared photography, a strong graphite underdrawing shows additional lines in the neck, rump, head and legs of the animal, as well as front hooves that were left unpainted, and a second lead from the halter to the stall—a feature seen in other studies of this series, but not in any copy of this horse. Presence of an underdrawing is often an indication of original art. Copyists are less likely to produce a drawing before painting, and would have no reason to include invisible details and changes in the drawing that are not included in the final painted image. While at least one scholar believes the painting to be by Gericault, others have inspected the painting and remain unconvinced. Clark curator Sarah Lees notes that the infrared evidence may prompt the experts to reassess the evidence. But, Lees adds, definitive proof will be hard to come by, and the answer as to who painted this Dervish may never be known. j C The Clark’s Dervish in His Stall, and (inset) an infrared detail of the underdrawing showing completion of the front hoof.
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Auspicious Vision Edward Wales Root’s American collection in Utica By Sara Bisi
Saul Steinberg’s 1955 At the Bar, from the MunsonWilliams-Proctor’s Root Collection. Opposite, Charles Burchfield’s watercolor The Insect Chorus.
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ince my show, I’ve been busy matting my early things,” wrote Buffalo painter Charles Burchfield to his friend and patron Edward Wales Root in March, 1934. “As you remember, I had them on those wretched gray mounts, and they never looked well.” Root (1884 -1956) lived his entire life in Clinton, New York, just outside Utica. The son of Elihu Root, Secretary of State under Theodore Roosevelt and 1912 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Edward Root taught art appreciation at Hamilton College and was an important collector of American modernism. Near the end of his life, Root spent seven years as
art consultant at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute Museum of Art (MWPAI), and upon his death, bequeathed 227 artworks by 80 20th-century American artists to the Utica museum. To honor the 50th anniversary of Root’s gift, the MWPAI has mounted “Auspicious Vision: Edward Wales Root and American Modernism,” an exhibition showcasing all of the paintings and works on paper in the collection. The exhibit includes a significant sampling of thencontemporary artists, collected between 1910 and the 1950s, including, Maurice Prendergast, George Luks, Charles Sheeler, Mark Tobey, Robert Motherwell, Saul Steinberg and Edward Hopper, among many others. In preparation for the exhibit, more than 80 works on paper from the Root collection traveled to WACC’s paper conservation lab for examination and treatment. Drawings, prints, pastels and watercolors were evaluated by paper conservators Leslie Paisley and Rebecca Johnston, who surveyed and proposed treatments for approximately half the works. The conservators were assisted by Sara Bisi, graduate intern in paper conservation. Treatments ranged from hinge, tape and backing removal to surface cleaning, humidification, washing, mending, lining and pressing. Several watercolors by Burchfield were approved for treatment, and illustrate one facet of the project. The artworks were removed from their non-archival paper mounts and surface cleaned. Tapes were removed and tears repaired before the works
were humidified and pressed. The Burchfield watercolors had been adhered to one-ply gray paper mounts with dabs of adhesive along the edges. This restricted the watercolor paper from expanding and contracting with fluctuations in relative humidity, causing minor distortions. Over time, close contact between poor-quality acidic mounts and artwork risks increasing the acidity and discoloration of the watercolor paper. Nor did the artist approve of the gray paper mounts. While working on the exhibition, Mary E. Murray, Curator of 20th-Century Art at the MWPAI , discovered the 1934 letter from Burchfield to Root describing his aversion to the gray paper. Both the potential for physical and chemical damage of the existing mounts, and the artist’s dislike of the gray paper, influenced the decision to remove the watercolors and hinge them into new museum-quality mats. Once separated from the secondary support, the remaining paper and adhesive on the reverse of each watercolor was removed using local application of moisture. In some cases, careful surface cleaning was required to remove loose surface soil without disturbing graphite or watercolor media. Once cleaned, any existing tears were mended prior to overall humidification and flattening. After treatment, each watercolor was hinged to new mat board for exhibition. Prior to treatment, the reverse of each watercolor was hidden from view. Removal of the gray paper revealed inscriptions on the reverse of each work. In most cases, the subject matter and date were written in graphite near the center of the watercolor paper. But the 1917 watercolor
titled The Insect Chorus contained an elaborate inscription by Burchfield that poetically describes the scene: “It is late Sunday afternoon in August, the child stands alone in the garden listening to the metallic sounds of insects; they are all his world, so to his mind all things become saturated with their presence— crickets bark in depth of the grass, the shadows of the trees conceal fantastic creatures, and the ivy looks
with fear at the black interior of the arbor, not knowing what terrible thing might be there.” Not only were the Root Collection works on paper stabilized and prepared for exhibition, treatment also revealed significant insights into their background and artistic vision. j C “Auspicious Vision: Edward Wales Root and American Modernism,” is at the MunsonWilliams-Proctor Arts Institute Museum of Art, in Utica through January 27, 2008.
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Report from Atlanta
Contemporary Artworks in an Atlanta Courthouse By James Squires
he Atlanta Art Conservation Center has been involved in the treatment of contemporary artworks installed in the Richard B. Russell Federal Building, a federal courthouse in downtown Atlanta. The courthouse was completed in 1979, the same year artists were commissioned to create unique artworks for the space. Works by two of those artists, Sam Gilliam and Jennifer Bartlett, are shown here. Gilliam is an African-American abstract painter based in Washington, D.C. In the mid-1960s, he made a significant contribution to the group of artists known as the “Washington Color School” when he broke from tradition by using painter’s tarps of varying sizes and shapes as his painting surface. Gilliam painted on these tarps in both oil and acrylic paints, improvising their application and allowing the colors to evolve. When his works were installed on the wall, he integrated folds and drapes into the tarps, giving the work a sculptural quality. Triple Variants, the piece commissioned for the Rus12 | Art Conservator | Fall 2007
sell courthouse, is typical of Gilliam’s style. To further emphasize the sculptural characteristics of the work, Gilliam placed on the floor in front of the painting two large granite stones and a painted aluminum beam. The courthouse’s chief judge at the time did not appreciate Gilliam’s technique or aesthetic, and would not let the work be installed in the lobby area of the courtroom level. Legend has it that the judge and the artist discussed the impasse over a glass of scotch, and Gilliam agreed to allow Triple Variants to be shown on a granite wall of the plaza (entry) level of the building. The painting had not been treated since its installation in 1980, and was covered in layers of dust and grime. Because there are no barriers surrounding the piece, floor wax had accumulated on the bases of the stones and beam, and the aluminum beam had been marred with areas of chipped paint and scuff marks. The artist’s use of acrylic paint limited our treatment options. The polymers in acrylic paints form soft, porous paint films which, if
The artwork was in very poor condition before treatment. Twenty-seven years of exposure to excessively high light levels had caused fading and cracking of the paint layers. As with Triple Variants, the paintings are installed on the plaza level without barriers, and their surfaces were found to be scratched and graffitied. Poor house-cleaning techniques had also caused wax and moisture to come in contact with the Sam Gilliam’s Triple Variants (above), and Jennifer Bartlett’s Buoy Swimmers, from her Swimmers Atlanta lower canvases and series, as installed in the Russell Federal Building in downtown Atlanta. plates, promoting significant corrosion of the steel plates. the wrong cleaning solution is used, could destroy the The treatment of the work occurred in three phases: paint layers by penetrating the film. The surface was deinstallation and transport back to AACC , proper rinsed with deionized water to remove the grime on top of the paint, significantly brightening the picture overall. The wax was removed with solvent gels, and the scuffs to the beam were removed mechanically while the losses were consolidated and toned as necessary. Jennifer Bartlett is a well-known contemporary artist whose work is seen in many major international institutions. Swimmers Atlanta, her piece for the Russell Building, is a series of nine vignettes based on the concept of a person, symbolized by abstract ovals, swimming in the ocean and encountering objects including an iceberg, a boat, an eel, rocks, a buoy, a flare, a bottle, seaweed, and a whirlpool. Each vignette is composed of two canvases and varying numbers of 12-inch square steel plates. The canvas sizes are scaled to the number of plates used. Bartlett used different colors in each vignette to represent variations in weather and time of day. As a whole, the piece symbolizes human striving against obstacles and circumstances dark or bright, stormy or calm.
documentation and treatment, then reinstallation. The damage was so extensive it was necessary to remove all 18 canvases and 572 steel plates from the wall. Since the General Services Administration, the agency overseeing the conservation of artworks in federal buildings, does not have adequate records of the piece, an important component of the treatment is digital photographic documentation of each canvas and plate before and after treatment, and the compilation of those images in a binder for future reference. After conversations with GSA and the artist, it was decided that treatment would focus primarily on the structural aspects of the art, and to a lesser extent on aesthetic compensation. Corrosion seen on some of the lower steel plates will be neutralized, and loose and flaking paint will be consolidated. The treatment and reinstallation is expected to be complete by spring 2008. j C Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 13
WACC News & Notes
An Enigmatic Courbet
his Portrait of M Nodler Jr. by Gustave Courbet, owned by the Springfield Library and Museums Association in Springfield, Massachusetts, provided both a moment of drama and a happy ending. The painting of a striking young man with an arresting expression is dated 1866, and may have been begun in Trouville in the fall of the previous year. It arrived at the lab looking cloudy and dull; examination under ultraviolet light seemed to show broad strokes over the entire image that fluoresced like repaint. This raised initial fears that the entire image had been overpainted. Fortunately, the removal of the varnish layer resolved the mystery. What appeared as sweeping overpaint was in fact a heavily tinted varnish applied over the entire painting. The varnish was so heavily infused with brown paint particles it had become hazy and lackluster, altering the paint’s fluorescence in ultraviolet light and disguising the original paint surface. The tinting was heavy enough to cover existing cracquelure patterns and obscure the surface character of the painting. This tinted varnish appeared to have been applied to hide a myriad of tiny pinpoint white damages, the result of abrasions from a past cleaning that affected some of the picture’s darker browns—notably in the background, in the sitter’s wavy hair, and in the shadowed interior of his loose jacket. The original brown paint’s sensitivity to solvents suggests that Courbet may have used the popular but notoriously non-drying bitumen as a pigment, or perhaps extended his browns with resin, which would have made them vulnerable to a later cleaning. The abrasions, which showed as a flurry of white specks throughout the dark areas, were inpainted one by one. The work completed, and a new, more saturating coat of varnish applied, Courbet’s beautiful brushwork and rich colors once again command attention, as does Monsieur Nodler’s enigmatic gaze. —Montserrat Le Mense
WACC Conservators Embark on Mission to Mongolia
n July, four conservators from Williamstown traveled to Mongolia for two weeks on an exploratory exchange to learn about the state of preservation of the Asian country’s collections, to gain insight and understanding into the challenges faced by conservators in Mongolia, and to identify future collaborative projects. The fact-finding mission was undertaken with a $40,000 grant from the New Yorkbased Trust for Mutual Understanding. The WACC team included Thomas Branchick, director and paintings conservation head; Cynthia Luk, paintings 14 | Art Conservator | Fall 2007
conservator and the Center’s international projects specialist; Leslie Paisley, paper conservation department head; and Gerri Strickler, associate conservator of objects. Most of their trip was spent in the capital of Ulaanbaatar, with a side trip into the Mongolian countryside to tour an 8th-century Turkic burial site. The Arts Council of Mongolia hosted the trip, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, and the Cultural Heritage Center of Mongolia. All are actively involved in preservation activities throughout the country.
The Cultural Heritage Center presents the closest parallel to the activities carried out at the Williamstown Art Conservation Center. It serves the conservation needs of numerous museums and heritage sites throughout Mongolia, in collaboration with 35 cultural organizations. Lack of sufficient funding is at the root of the Center’s needs, which include lack of access to modern techniques, facilities and materials, as well as sufficient conservators to meet current demand. Preservation activities in Mongolia have been largely focused on preserving
Surrounded by a sweeping plain and distant hills, WACC conservators and their Mongolian hosts tour an 8th-century Turkic burial site outside the capital of Ulaanbaatar. the country’s precious historic artifacts. Unfortunately, this means that modern art collections that might otherwise be given a higher priority do not presently receive adequate funding. The Mongolian Modern Art Gallery, located in the Central Cultural Palace in Ulaanbaatar, houses a permanent collection of 5,000 contemporary art works, including numerous paintings from 1921 to 2007. Museum environmental controls are achieved through such low-tech solutions as placing open containers of water in the galleries to humidify the air. The Zanabazar Museum, also in Ulaanbaatar, houses a permanent collec-
tion of 12,000 important cultural works. The museum is named for Zanabazar, the 17thcentury “Michelangelo of Asia,” who brought to the region a renaissance in spirituality, sacred music, bronze casting, painting, medicine and astronomy. In recent years, UNESCO has aided the museum in improving collections management and preservation, as well as in conservator training, storage upgrade, and, currently in progress, the drafting of a collections management policy. Much of Mongolia’s legacy of material culture is housed at the National Museum of Mongolian History. While many objects are on display, many more in
storage, and the institutions most pressing need is for a major upgrade of its storage facilities. A comprehensive survey of conditions was performed in 2004, and though some recommended improvements have been made, the history museum can do little more with its current facilities. The trip ended with all parties hoping for future collaboration. Plans are currently underway to host conservators from Mongolia in Williamstown, to view our operations, visit member institutions and identify additional ways to work together. The visit is tentatively set for April, around the time WACC’s new Stone Hill facility opens. Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 15
WACC News & Notes
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Michigan Molded-Plywood Chairs
hese four molded-plywood chairs were restored by Hugh Glover, head conservator of WACC’s department of wooden objects, for the newly reopened Grand Rapids Art Museum. Grand Rapids’s new building, which opened October 5, is the first art museum in the world to be designated a LEED building (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), meaning it conforms to guidelines established by the non-profit United States Green Building Council. Plywood’s glued-veneer layers allow it to be bent and molded into distinctive shapes without loosing its practical strength. Wood laminants date back centuries; the “modern” plywood chair was developed by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto in 1933. In the 1950s, Charles and Ray Eames became renowned for their sculptural plywood chairs, examples
of which are in the Museum of Modern Art. In the 1960s and ‘70s, plywood gave way to plastic and fiberglass, but wood’s popularity is back on the rise. The chairs pictured at left represent a cross-section of the art of the moldedplywood chair. Pictured here, are, clockwise from top left: Lounge Chair, circa 1936, by Weimar designer and architect Marcel Breuer; red molded LCW (Low Chair Wood) designed in 1945 by Americans Charles and Ray Eames; steam-bent wood and plywood Sitzmaschine [sitting machine], designed in 1905 by Viennese architect Joseph Hoffman; and a black cantilevered S chair (model #275) from 1956 by Danish innovator Verner Panton. The chairs, all owned by the Grand Rapids Art Museum, are on display in its permanent Design and Modern Craft gallery.
New Faces Join WACC Staff in 2007 A number of new staff members and interns joined the Center team in 2007. Here is a roster of our new faces: Sara L. Bisi is a graduate student from the Buffalo State College Art Conservation Program in New York. She is completing her third-year graduate internship in paper and photograph conservation at WACC. Matt Cushman received a BA in art conservation and chemistry from the University of Delaware in 2004, and an MS in paintings conservation from the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation in 2007. Matt joined WACC in September as assistant conservator of paintings and analytical services. Allison Leone studied art history and museum studies at Rutgers University and Syracuse University before completing studies in preventive conservation of textiles at the Winterthur/ University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation in 2006. At WACC, she is assistant conservator of textiles, frames and paintings Adam G. Nesbit was a master apprentice at WACC from 1998 to 2003, just after receiving a
BA in art history from Williams College. He then attended the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation, completing internships at the Winterthur Museum & Country Estate in Delaware and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. He now serves as assistant objects conservator at WACC. Sara White is a conservation technician at WACC, primarily in the objects and paintings sections. A 2007 graduate of Wheaton College, Sara is using her WACC experience to determine if she wants to pursue a career in conservation. Alicia Zaludova began as furniture and frames technician at WACC in May. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with a background in handcrafted leather accessories. Xian Zhang obtained her BS in chemistry in 2001 from Fudan University in Shanghai, China, where she also obtained training in traditional Chinese painting at the Shanghai Fine Arts Museum. She completed her PhD studies on dye analysis at Boston University in 2007, and is currently head of Analytical Services at WACC.
Thomas J. Branchick Director; Conservator of Paintings/ Dept. Head Teresa Beer Accounts Manager Mary Catherine Betz Associate Conservator of Paintings Sara Bisi Third Year Intern in Paper John Conzett Office Assistant-Full Time Matthew Cushman Assistant Conservator, Paintings and Analytical Science Hugh P. Glover Conservator of Furniture and
Wood Objects/Dept. Head
Matthew Hamilton Photography Technician Katherine A. Holbrow Conservator of Objects/Dept. Head Rebecca Johnston Conservator of Paper Henry Klein Conservation Technician Montserrat M.M. Le Mense Conservator of Paintings Allison Leone Assistant Conservator of Furniture and Frames Cynthia Luk Conservator of Paintings; International Projects Specialist Adam Nesbit Assistant Conservator in Furniture/ Frames and Objects Leslie H. Paisley Conservator of Paper/Dept. Head Susan Scherr Office Assistant-Part Time Gerri Ann Strickler Associate Conservator of Objects Katherine B. Tremblay Office Manager Sandra L. Webber Conservator of Paintings Sara White Technician in Objects Alicia Zaludova Technician in Frames Xian Zhang Analytical Scientist
Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 17
Greek Nestoris Owner: Bowdoin College Museum of Art
lose ether was used to soften the adhesive. The removed
Conservator: Gerri Ann Strickler
foot revealed a brass, threaded rod anchored in a thick
Description: Large, hand-painted, red-figured terracotta vessel, 4th century BCE, Lucanian (Greek southern Italy), attributed to the Primato Painter. The imagery around the neck shows a deer, dog and wreathed youths dancing or running. Imagery around the body consists of a wreathed youth with hand toward Nike, youth with hand towards Orpheus holding a lyre, reclining youth with hand towards youth playing the double flute, and a satyr chasing a goat. Repeating motifs include Greek fret, grapevines and anthemion (floral patterns). 1. Arrived in poor condition overall. The foot was not stable and the vessel was in danger of structural damage. Previous reconstruction was visible on the exterior; the interior was covered with a heavy dirt crust. There was a layer of superficial dust on the interior and exterior surfaces. The vessel had been reconstructed from many shards, and not all repairs were visible. The rim, neck, and foot were generally intact, with the body and handles full of repairs and fills. 2. A temporary platform with cutouts for the handles was constructed of wood and polyethylene foam, to accommodate the vessel upside down and allow complete access to the foot. 3. The foot was removed along repairs that were already failing. A solvent gel of ethanol and cellu18 | Art Conservator | Fall 2007
bed of mortar-like material. The mortar had separated slightly from the wall of the foot, probably during curing, and was easily removed mechanically. The base interior showed an iron-alloy round plate (magnetic) along the foot repair. The plate appeared to be peened flush, no bolt, maybe solder. 4. Foot was reconstructed using commercial acrylic copolymer resin. Gaps along repairs were filled with putty of copolymer resin and microballoons. The interior of the base was also reinforced in the same manner. 5. All loose and unstable previous fills were removed, especially along the neck and shoulder. Existing fills that covered original painting were reduced using a scalpel. New structural fills needed along the shoulder and neck were made using putty as above. Cosmetic fills were made using a quick-setting, cellulose-based material, and smoothed as possible. Areas previously reconstructed out-of-plane were filled as is. 6. Degraded shellac coating applied in a previous restoration was reduced. It is recommended that the coating be completely removed upon future reconstruction of the vessel. 7. All fills were toned with acrylic paints. Larger fills (new and old) were painted black as needed. j C
Tech Notes, Fall 2007
A Comparison of Glazing Materials Used in Framing Leslie Paisley
lazing with glass or plastic sheeting is an essential component for framing and exhibiting artwork. Glazing materials protect sensitive surfaces from abrasion, airborne pollutants and dust. In addition, glazing buffers artwork from fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity. Clear, inert glazing materials also protect objects in handling as well as provide security for small objects. Glazing can also be used to protect works of art or documents from some of the harmful effects of light. Both natural and artificial light sources emit energy in the ultraviolet and infrared ranges (“invisible”), in addition to visible light. As wavelength decreases , the intensity of light increases logarithmically, and can cause photochemical damage to organic materials.
• Colors fade or darken • Structural changes (e.g. embrittlement) occur due to the breakdown of molecular bonds.  Damage and deterioration are factors of the quantity, quality, intensity and duration of light exposure. Artificial light sources Incandescent lamps produce less UV radiation than daylight or fluorescent lamps. Regular window glass blocks out some UV light, but ultraviolet filtered glazing should be used to frame artwork. All fluorescent lighting fixtures should be provided with a diffuser plate or tube cover to filter out up to about 99% of the UV radiation.  Some situations allow for a glazing material that is not UV filtered as long as the light is filtered elsewhere within the case, windows or bulbs.
Table 1 Comparison of Glass v. Plastic Advantage 4/ Disadvantage 8 Glass 4 Picks up little electrostatic charge (suitable for pastel 8 Electrostatic Properties chalk and charcoal drawings)
Plastic Retains powerful electrostatic charge (not suitable for pastel, chalk and charcoal drawings). Exception: Optium™ acrylic.
Scratch/Solvent 4 Very resistant to abrasion and solvents. Exception: most 8 Must be cleaned carefully to prevent scratching. Resistance coated glass Can be altered by some solvents. Defects
4 Few defects. Exception: most laminates, except Luxar
8 Black specks are common.
4 Rigid, even in 2mm thickness accommodated by 8 Rigidity most frames. Tends not to respond to changes in relative humidity (RH).
Absorbs moisture and warps. Differential temperature and/or RH on inner and outer srufaces may cause bowing toward the higher temp/RH (returns to normal configuration as differentials(s) return to zero.) Especially problematic on oversized artwork; can lead to popping out of frame; must be stored properly; Note: Polycarbonate is less responsive to moisture than acrylic.
4 Some treated glass is to reduce reflection. 8 Reflectance Conservation framing requires air space between artwork and glazing; standard non-glare glass (etched on one side) will not allow proper viewing.
The majority are currently not available with reflection reduction properties suitable for artwork. Exception: Only Optium™ is available with antireflection properties suitable for artwork.
8 Thermoplastics are combustible at sufficiently Heat Resistance 4 Heat resistant. Better moisture barrier. Temp and high temperatures. Polycarbonates are less rh Factors flammable than acrylic. More moisture permeable. 8 Some thermal conduction; condensation may occur 4 Better thermal insulator; condensation is less likely Insulation on the inside surface of glazing nearest the artwork. to occur inside the frame. 8 Heavy, especially laminated glass. Large pieces require 4 Weight sturdy frames and hanging materials. More vulnerable to damage from handling.
Lightweight. Lighter hanging equipment is possible, and breakage during handling is reduced. 3mm acrylic is 50% lighter than glass. Requires sturdy frame for large sizes to prevent bowing.
8 Breaks easily; old glass is particularly brittle. For 4 Less likely to break, more shatter resistant. Should Breakage transit, masking or other low tack tape should be breakage occur, the fragments are less sharp than with applied in a grid pattern over the glass to minimize glass. Polycarbonate has the best impact resistance. glass splinters from breakage. Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 19
Tech Notes, Winter 2008 Natural light Remember that no matter what type of glazing is used, no artwork should be exposed to direct sunlight. There are many types of glazing materials to choose from. Selecting the appropriate material can be confusing. Factors to consider when making your selection include weight, risk of breakage, glare, color, qual-
ity of illumination and cost. The following tables are offered to aid in making decisions for your collection. Table 1 is a comparison of glass and thermoplastics, including acrylic and polycarbonate, as glazing material. Table 2 lists the properties of glass products used for framing fine art. Table 3 lists the properties of thermoplastics used for framing fine art.
Table 2 Properties of Glass Products Used for Framing Art Color Safety
AMIRAN TN® Clear Breaks but does Filters 99% Cleans easily with Anti-reflective. Can (laminated) (low iron) not shatter against detergent, water and contain imperfections. artwork soft cloth. Avoid strong Often longer order time, acid, alkaline or in our experience, abrasive cleaners. than other available laminates. LUXAR® Classic Greenish and Breaks but does Filters 99.5% Difficult to clean (laminated) thicker not shatter against (low iron) artwork
Anti-Reflective. May be less expensive than other laminates. Made and laminated at same factory, therefore less apt to have flecks.
Tru Vue® Clear Breaks but does Blocks out Cleans easily with Museum Security (low iron) not shatter against virtually all detergent, water and Glass (laminated) artwork UV at 300-380 nm soft cloth. Avoid (.97%) strong acid, alkaline or abrasive cleaners.
Anti-reflective. Used for paintings not normally glazed for viewing. Often contains black flecks. Skilled cutting required.
Guardian® Clear As brittle as Coating blocks Cleans easily with Anti-reflective. InspirationUV™ (low iron) window glass 98% of UV detergent, water and Equivalent to Tru Vue (not laminated) soft cloth. Avoid strong Conservation Clear. acid, alkaline or Film is applied to abrasive cleaners. protect coated side for transit. Position the coated side toward the art to prevent scratching and reduce distortion. Tru Vue® Avoid No protection Coating blocks Coating is sensitive; Conservation Series non-glare against 97% of UV use ammonia-free 2.5mm float glass breakage at 300-380nm glass cleaner (not laminated)
Depends on type of product: check with manufacturer for details on each type. Some are single-sided. Position coated side toward art to protect the coating.
Window Glass Clear/ Breaks easily Minimal protection, Cleans easily; green tinge . 40% at .093” abrasion-resistant
Heavy4 in large sizes. With each layer of glass , there is increased filtration.5
20 | Art Conservator | Fall 2007
The information in this report was taken from published data provided by the manufacturers and from conversations with suppliers in 2005-2007. The product specifications have not been independently tested by WACC and are subject to change. WACC does not endorse any specific products listed.
lengths of the electromagnetic spectrum are measured in units called namometers. One nanometer equals one billionth of a meter, or approximately 39 billionths of an inch.)  From Atohaas technical leaflet, “Plexiglas Acrylic Sheet: General Information and Physical Properties,” PLA-66, December 1992.  From the Tru Vue technical leaflet, “Tru Vue Conservation Glass.”
 From around 500 nanometers downward. (The wave-
Table 3 Properties of Thermoplastics Used for Framing Art Color Safety
Acrylite® OP-2 Clear (grayish) Breakage resistant Acrylite® OP-3 (acrylic)
Both OP-2 and Liquid detergent and OP-3 filter 98%. water solution with UV absorbers are non-abrasive cleaning in the resin used. cloth. OP-2 is cell cast.
OP-3 is slightly less expensive due to fabrication. UV protection is in the sheet, not in the coating.
Lexan® 9034 Clear, but Extremely resistant Absorbs (polycarbonate) yellows from to breakage virtually all UV exposure. UV radiation.
Liquid detergent and Yellows faster than water solution with acrylic. More difficult non-abrasive cleaning to cut. cloth. Scratches more readily than acrylic.
Margard® MR5000 Clear (grayish) Extremely resistant Absorbs (polycarbonate) The coating to breakage virtually all slows down UV radiation yellowing.
Liquid detergent and water solution with non-abrasive cleaning cloth. Coating reduces scratching.
May yellow faster than acrylics; need to specify MR5000; will be more expensive than Plexiglas.
Plexiglas®-G G: Clear All have good G: negligible Use non-abrasive Plexiglas® UF-3 UF-3: yellow chemical and UF-3: 99% cloth, avoid alcohol. Plexiglas® UF-4 tinge breakage UF-4: under 99% Novus or Brillianize Plexiglas® UF-5 UF-4: clear resistance. UF-5: 99% is OK. (acrylic)
G: less expensive UF-3: greatest UV absorbing properties of all three Plexiglas formulations used on fine art.
Tru Vue® Optium™ Clear Acrylic and Optium™ Museum Acrylic™
Use microfiber cloth. Avoid acrylic cleaners. Must clean after removal of masking film to remove plasticizers.
Maximum size 41 x 71”. Coated on both sides (no “right” side). Offers static dispersion. 6mm is available.
Use non-abrasive cloth, avoid alcohol. Novus or Brillianize is OK.
1/4” thickness is used for oversized artwork as large as 6’ x 10’.
Both have good Optium: chemical and filters 93% breakage Museum: resistance. filters 98% Optium comes in 3mm and 4.5mm.
Spartech® UF96 Clear Breakage resistant Absorbs (acrylic) virtually all UV radiation. Notes to Chart 3 above: 1) Because thermoplastics can sag, larger framed artwork which must travel should be transported vertically. 2) In general, polycarbonates are less flammable than acrylic, but all thermoplastics are more flammable than glass. Notes to Chart 2 on facing page:
Glass is generally chosen for unbound media such as pastel and charcoal and for sensitive paintings that require glazing. Glazing should be carefully chosen for the intended use and installation. Be advised that regular non-glare glass products diffuse and reflect light, but do not sufficiently block UV radiation and are generally not clear. They cannot be considered for conservation use. Anti reflective glass however is clear and usually contains some degree of UV filtration. Anti-reflective glass can become virtually invisible when viewed in a vertical orientation and in controlled gallery lighting. In areas where paintings may be exposed to some indirect natural light (from a skylight or down a hallway to the gallery), the resulting surface color may not be acceptable. See “Glossary of Glazing Terms” on the WACC Web site.  Laminates are all heavier than single lites.  54% filtration for the second piece; 61% for the third piece.
Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 21
Table 4 Product Sources Table Product
Schott NA, Inc.
Guardian® Inspiration UV™ Guardian Industries
Maryland Glass Small Corp.
Lexan® and Margard® polycarbonate sheet
Luxar® Classic laminated ed glass Europtec
McGrory Glass Maryland Glass
Don Mar Freeman Plastics
Altuglas International (bought from Rohm & Haas)
Spartech® UF96 Spartech Polycast
Maryland Glass Small Corp
Tru Vue® Tru Vue Inc. Conservation Clear glass c Museum Security™ glass c Optium™ Museum acrylic
Don Mar Maryland Glass
Supplier Addresses Don Mar Frame & Molding 175 Highland Ave. Seekonk, MA 02771 800-556-7428 (MA) 800-556-7428 (CT) 800-207-0360 (NJ) www.donmarcreations.com Maryland Glass & Mirror Co. 1834 So. Charles St. Baltimore, MD 21230 800- 352-3380 www.mdglass.net Matt Daulbke
McGrory Glass, Inc. 100 Commerce Dr. Aston, PA 19014 800-220-3749 www.mcgrory-glass.com Modern Plastics Corporate Headquarters: P.O. Box 3974 Bridgeport, CT 06605 800-243-9696 Massachusetts: 710 Berkshire Avenue Springfield, MA 01109-1007 800-628-4458 www.modernplastics.com b leslie
Ernie Robertson Preservation Glazing, Inc. 910-692-4283 910-692-8855 910-724-1026 fax firstname.lastname@example.org Schott North America, Inc. Elmsford, NY 10523 914-831-2200 www.us.schott.com
Small Corp. P.O. Box 948 Greenfield, MA 01302 413-772-0889 x 101 800-392-9500 www.smallcorp.com Small Corp only sells cast acrylics, 1/4” regular Plexiglas up to 108 x 162”. Call for quote. A complete list of suppliers, manufacturers and fabricators is at www.williamstownart.org.
paisley has been the chief paper conservator at WACC since 1989.
She apprentice-trained with Christa Gaehde from 1977-1982 before receiving her Certificate of Advanced Studies at the Center for Conservation and Technical Studies at the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, in 1983. Prior to joining WACC , she was senior paper conservator at the Pacific Regional Art Conservation Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.
22 | Art Conservator | Fall 2007
Members of the Consortium
Henry Sheldon Museum
Rhode Island School of Design
Art Conservation Center
of Vermont History
Museum of Art
—225 South Street
—Williamstown, MA 01267
Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art,
Richard F. Brush Art Gallery,
St. Lawrence University
Historic Deerfield, Inc.
Albany Institute of History and Art —Albany, NY Alice T. Miner Colonial Collection
—Ithaca, NY —Deerfield, MA
Hofstra Museum, Hofstra University
for member institutions, and for other non-profit organizations,
St. Johnsbury Athenaeum
The Arkell Museum
The Hyde Collection
—Glens Falls, NY
Art Complex Museum
The Lawrenceville School
Atlanta Historical Society, Inc.
Bowdoin College Museum of Art —Brunswick, ME
tion of works of art and objects of cultural interest; to participate in the
the importance of conservation
Mead Art Museum,
and increase the awareness of the
Memorial Art Gallery,
George L.K. Morris Foundation
University of Rochester
Middlebury College Museum of Art
Manchester Historical Society Colby College Museum of Art
Union College —Schenectady, NY —Montpelier, VT
Vermont Museum and Gallery
Institute Museum of Art
seminate knowledge to advance the profession.
Tioga Point Museum
Museum of Connecticut History
Connecticut Historical Society
—South Hadley, MA
and to conduct research and dis-
Vermont Historical Society
issues pertinent to collections care;
Suzy Frelinghuysen and
training of conservators; to promote
Sterling and Francine Clark
Mount Holyoke College
respect to the care and conserva-
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
Dartmouth College —Hanover, NH
of our cultural heritage; to provide examination, treatment, consultation
Roland Gibson Gallery,
Hood Museum of Art,
non-profit institution, is to protect,
The Rockwell Museum
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
The Farnsworth Art Museum
Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College
New Hampshire Historical Society
Alabama Historical Commission
Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
New York State
Booth Western Art Museum
Office of General Services,
Empire State Plaza Art Collection
Columbia Museum of Art
—Cartersville, GA —Columbia, SC
Norman Rockwell Museum
The Columbus Museum
High Museum of Art
Old Sturbridge Village
Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts
Fred L. Emerson Gallery,
Picker Art Gallery,
Morris Museum of Art
Frederic Remington Art Museum
he mission of the Williamstown Art Conservation Center, a
conserve and maintain the objects
Arnot Art Museum
Addison Gallery of American Art, —Andover, MA
Portland Museum of Art
—Montgomery, AL —Augusta, GA
Telfair Museum of Art
Preservation Society of Newport County
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 o nservat o r
W illiamstown , M A 0 1 2 6 7
2 2 5 S o u t h St r e e t
C h ange S ervice R e q uested
Visit us Online: www . williamstownart. org
U . S . P ostage
N on - profit org .
PA I D
P ittsburgh . P A
permit # 5 4 5 0
24 | Art Conservator | Fall 2007