Art Conservator | Volume 5 No. 2

Page 1


VO LU M E 5 , N U M B E R 2  • FA L L 2 010

Return of the 69th

Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 1

Contents, Fall 2010

Art Conservator Volume 5, Number 2 • Fall 2010 Director Thomas J. Branchick Editor Timothy Cahill Art Direction and Production Berg Design, Albany NY Photographer Matthew Hamilton Contributors Allison McCloskey Jennifer McGlinchey Sandra Webber Office Manager Rob Conzett Accounts Manager Teresa Haskins Office Assistant Amanda Turner Printing Snyder Printer, Troy, NY Williamstown Art Conservation Center 227 South Street Williamstown, MA 01267 T: 413-458-5741 F: 413-458-2314 Atlanta Art Conservation Center 6000 Peachtree Road Atlanta, GA 30341 T: 404-733-4589 F: 678-547-1453 All rights reserved. Text and photographs copyright © Williamstown Art Conservation Center (WACC), unless otherwise noted. Art Conservator is published twice yearly by WACC, Thomas J. Branchick, director. Material may not be reproduced in any form without written permission of Williamstown Art Conservation Center. WACC is a nonprofit, multi-service conservation center serving the needs of member museums, nonprofit institutions and laboratories, and the general public.

On the cover Louis Lang, The Return of the 69th (Irish) Regiment, N.Y.S.M., From the Seat of War, 1862-63 (detail)

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3 Director’s Letter 4 Return of the 69th Unseen for decades, a monumental American painting is reconstructed 12 Unveiling Gérôme’s Splendor

By Sandra Webber 14 WACC News & Notes

New life for a rustic goddess, treating oversized bullfight posters, an American Indian headdress, Krasner on Pollock, new photography conservator 18 Report from Atlanta

An objects curator arrives at AACC


Tech Notes

Simple Non-Adhesive Methods for Conservation Mounting of Photographs By Jennifer McGlinchey

From the Director

In October, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel with the Clark Art Institute staff and trustees to Barcelona and Madrid for two loan exhibitions. In Barcelona, the exhibit was Picasso Looks at Degas at the Museu Picasso Barcelona, which co-organized the show with the Clark. In Madrid, the Prado opened A Passion for Renoir. This was the first time French impressionist pictures were exhibited at the Prado, and the crowds and press coverage were extensive. Both events were sensational. Kudos to Clark director Michael Conforti and his staff. My proudest moment was recognizing all the hard work of WACC conservators in cleaning, consolidation, and glazing of the paintings and frames to allow them to travel. True testament to world-class work shared between world-class institutions. I also visited the Prado’s new painting conservation facility, which was recently renovated, including the transformation of a cloister into lab space. I was bowled away to see Albrect Durer’s Adam and Eve, two of Velazquez’s monumental Royal Horseback Portraits and a newly discovered Bruegel painting, Wine Festival, all of which were undergoing treatment. I was, of course, also interested in how our space in Stone Hill Center compared to the Prado’s labs, and walked away with a slight blush of arrogance. Tadao Ando really did get it right! The WACC trustee meeting earlier this month initiated some personnel changes. Laurie Norton Moffatt will step down as board chair effective January 1, 2011, and John Craig will depart as board secretary. Longtime board member Joann Potter announced she will leave the board when her term is complete the first of the year. Much heartfelt thanks to all three for their hard work and diligent governance of the Center. At the same time, I welcome Stuart Chase, Director of the Berkshire Museum as the new board chair, and Phil McKnight as secretary to help take WACC into the future. —Tom Branchick

Autumn turned the woods and hills around Stone Hill Center red and gold, a striking compliment to the Juan Muñoz sculpture Piggyback with Knife, part of a Muñoz exhibit at the Clark Art Institute’s Stone Hill gallery. Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 3

Cover Story

Return of the 69th Unseen for decades, a monumental American painting is reconstructed


he Williamstown Art Conservation Center has performed any number of extraordinary treatments in its history, but even on the scale of extraordinary few things equaled the challenge presented by the New-York Historical Society’s monumental The Return of the 69th. T‌he seven by eleven-and-a-half foot picture arrived at WACC literally in pieces, with the request to restore it back into a painting that will be a centerpiece of the Historical Society’s reopening next year. T‌he task enlisted the labors of seven WACC paintings conservators at various times over the course of a year, and called upon nearly every aspect of the conservator’s art. [See sidebar on pages 6-7 for photographs and description of the reconstructive process.] T‌he great puzzle was rebuilt section by section and bit by bit, until the painting, unseen by anyone in some two generations, once again revealed the sweep of its historical narrative. T‌he photographs in this issue of Art Conservator represent the first time the picture has been reproduced in color. T‌he painting is a marvel of its kind. Painted by Louis Lang in 1862-63, during the height of the Civil War, it captures a moment of jubilation after what was actually a disorienting early defeat for Union forces. T‌he Return of the 69th (Irish) Regiment, N.Y.S.M., From the Seat of War, the picture’s full title, is a panorama of patriotism, sentiment, and

Louis Lang’s 1862-63 Return of the 69th (Irish) Regiment, N.Y.S.M., from the Seat of War, pieced together at the New-York Historical Society. Note the tape measure along the left edge and fragments of paint.

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Courtesy New-York Historical Society.

(continued on page 10)

Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 5

6 | Art Conservator | Fall 2010

Reconstructing the 69th The Return of the 69th arrived at the Williamstown Art Conservation Center in extremely fragile condition, in numerous fragmented pieces with tears and holes, creases and extensive paint losses. The unlined canvas was brittle and friable. Opposite, upper left, associate paintings conservator Mary Catherine Betz inspects the fragments as they arrived in Williamstown and consolidates loose areas of paint with synthetic adhesive. Upper right, a detail of one of the larger fragments, and beneath it several smaller bits that required reincorporating back into the canvas. Below, a view of one of the tear mends where a number of pieces converged at a single point and were held in place with adhesive and Japanese tissue paper. At bottom, assistant conservator Matt Cushman realigns the canvas on the lab’s large vacuum hot table. After reconstruction, the painting showed numerous losses where both ground layer and paint layer were missing. On this page, at top, a detail of the paint surface shows the condition before fills and inpainting. Below, Betz uses a scalpel to remove excess adhesive from the surface in preparation for further treatment. The painting was given a secondary canvas lining on the vacuum hot table (below), then further reinforced and protected with an aluminum-skinned solid support lining. Final inpainting and varnish completed the treatment.

Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 7

The Return of the 69th after reconstruction, cleaning, and inpainting. 8 | Art Conservator | Fall 2010

Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 9

Detail from the picture’s upper right corner, showing damage and losses in the sky.

comic tableaux that combines reportage, historical portraiture, genre scenes, landscape painting, and docudrama. Depicting the hero’s welcome of the so-called “Irish Regiment” of the New York State Militia in New York City, it presents a scene modern audiences have come to expect in the cinema rather than a painting, with multiple points of action both poignant and funny played out by a cast of colorful characters. T‌he large canvas offers the eye the spectacle of unfolding episodes and the time to linger over each encounter and emotion. Lang (c.1814-1893) is largely remembered for sweetly plaintive pictures of children and maids weaving baskets, gathering strawberries, or otherwise engaged in homespun activities amid pastoral settings. He was, over the course of his career, also an accomplished portraitist and produced several estimable history paintings. He was born and trained in Germany, where his father was also a painter, and studied in France and Italy before finally settling in New York City. A member of the National Academy of Design, Lang was well known in art circles during his lifetime. For its imagination, variety, and sheer scale, Return of the 69th is by far Lang’s most ambitious and successful work. He was moved to paint his masterpiece in response to the homecoming, on July 27, 1861, of the New York State Militia’s 69th Regiment. Nicknamed the Irish Brigade because it was made up predominantly of sons of Erin, the regiment’s homecoming turned out throngs of the city’s Irish working class and resulted in a parade across the southern end of Manhattan. T‌he 69th’s return came just months after the start of the Civil War, following a ninety-day deployment in 10 | Art Conservator | Fall 2010

Virginia. T‌he regiment had been one of the first to answer President Lincoln’s call for troops to protect Washington, D.C. after the April 1861 attack on Fort Sumter. A week before the scene in the painting, the Army of the Potomac had suffered a sobering defeat at the First Battle of Bull Run, during which the 69th had distinguished itself for bravery defending its position during the Union retreat. T‌he soldiers and officers of the 69th were thus greeted as national, hometown, and ethnic heroes, which perhaps may have inspired Lang to undertake his picture. He seems to have painted it for himself rather than on commission, synthesizing all his training and skills onto a single canvas. As a history painting, it captures the joy and tumult of the event, showing the return of the soldiers and the view of New York Harbor at Pier 1 on the Hudson River, now buried beneath Battery Park City. It comprises numerous episodes, from tearful embraces to care of the wounded to public drinking, each of which would make a compelling genre painting in its own right. Across the canvas, Lang employed his talents as a portraitist with photographically accurate likenesses of several of the members of the 69th, from the drummer boys to the regiment priest to the company officers. Captain T‌homas Meagher, who had escaped execution in Ireland for anti-British activity and became a hero in America, is present on horseback waving his hat, as is regiment commander Brigadier General Michael Corcoran, despite being in a Confederate prison during the homecoming. T‌hat’s Corcoran on the broadside sold by the newsboy in the lower right. T‌he painting was first exhibited at Goupil’s Gallery in 1862. In 1886, Lang, a member of the New-York Historical Society, gifted the painting to N-YHS, which has owned it since. According to a chronology supplied by N-YHS Senior Historian (and former Museum Director) Linda Ferber, Return of the 69th can be documented on public display until 1945; at some point after that, it was placed in storage. Sometime during the next three decades the painting sustained damage, and in 1977, the fragments were removed from the stretcher and placed between cardboard. In 1989, a conservation team humidified the pieces to flatten them and protected them on museum board covered with glassine, which is how they arrived in Williamstown in 2009. “T‌he challenge was to get the painting back into as good shape as can be, given the fact of its condition,” said WACC director and paintings head T‌homas Branchick. “T‌here were two issues. T‌he first was topographical, aligning the pieces of the torn fabric without revealing the seams. T‌he second was

cosmetic, cleaning off old grime and varnish, then inpainting the damaged and lost paint.” T‌his process was particularly painstaking in the broad expanse of sky that fills the center top of the picture, where a subtle blend of blues, yellows, pinks and grays create an overall flat chromatic field where repairs were challenging to mask. T‌he second return of the 69th to New York City will take place next year, when the New-York Historical Society will unveil Lang’s great painting on Veteran’s Day—11/11/11—as part of the exhibition Making American Taste: Narrative Art

for a New Democracy. T‌he exhibition will mark both the sesquicentennial of the Civil War and the reopening of the N-YHS after eighteen months of renovation. “For us the painting is phoenix-like,” said N-YHS’s Ferber. “It’s an art history event and a history event, and it is symbolic of the resurrection of this institution.” For WACC director Branchick, the return of Lang’s painting to public view is a testament of his staff’s excellence. “T‌his was a monumental act of teamwork,” he said. “It is gratifying to see Lang’s masterpiece made whole again.”

Tom Branchick, WACC director and head paintings conservator, inpaints areas of sky along the top of the inverted painting. Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 11


Detail of Jean-Léon Gérôme’s The Slave Market, after cleaning. Inset, the full painting before treatment.

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Unveiling Gérôme’s splendor French painter Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904) took his first trip to Egypt and the Middle East in 1856, and returned to the region known then as the Orient a half-dozen times during the next quarter century. The paintings inspired by these travels are among the most fascinating of his oeuvre, not only among museum-goers but with art scholars as well. T‌hey prompt considerable discussion for their exotic and often erotic subjects, and are mined by contemporary historians for the stereotypes and prejudices they suggest about Gérôme’s wealthy French patrons. While often praised for their technical excellence, the paintings are just as frequently criticized for historic and ethnographic inaccuracies. Gérôme was an unreliable witness to the facts of the Orient, often constructing a scene with a pastiche of details from several countries and cultures. For all that, Gérôme never fails to fascinate the eye and imagination with his theatrical storytelling and wealth of vivid detail. T‌he acuity of the artist’s draftsmanship is one of the permanent pleasures of viewing a Gérôme in person. Recently, T‌he Slave Market (1867), one of three world-class Gérômes owned by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, was brought to the Williamstown Art Conservation Center for cleaning. T‌he cosmetic treatment, done in preparation for the picture’s inclusion in an international retrospective, was required to address yellowed varnish that had discolored the image. T‌he Clark’s previously cleaned Gérôme masterpieces, Snake Charmer and Fellah Women Drawing Water, made the yellow veil of T‌he Slave Market all the more pronounced. Treatment began by removing an upper synthetic resin layer which had been applied more than thirty years ago. Removal of this top layer allowed for a more-controlled reduction of the very discolored natural resin varnish layers below. T‌he discovery of small repairs to the painting beneath the varnish revealed the coatings were not original. Extrapolating from existing records, the painting was probably last cleaned and varnished when it was glue-lined in 1942. Careful thinning of the varnish gradually revealed a sharply nuanced picture whose palette had been flattened by its protective layers. In traditional painting, distant objects are often painted in cooler tones which become neutralized by the warming effect of the yellow varnish. Cleaning returns the proper spatial distance to the image. In this scene, Gérôme made his central figures more pronounced by painting the background groups in muted tones of blue and brown, reserving a full, bright palette for the main figures. T‌he most startling tonal recovery was the subtle-yet-brilliantly-painted flesh of the female slave as it contrasted with her white robe and the cream-colored garment of the slave dealer. T‌he old varnish had muted these pale-but-distinct hues so they appeared to be variants of the same color. Removal of the shiny, thick varnish also revealed the slight but distinguishable topography of Gérôme’s brushwork. T‌he completed treatment, with a new coat of synthetic resin varnish, affords the viewer a more unified presentation of Gérôme’s dramatic Mediterranean light. —Sandra Webber Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 13

WACC News & Notes

A Carved Folk Goddess Rises Again


he is a rustic dryad of the North Woods, a rosy-cheeked nymph in a baby-blue swimsuit. First cousin to a cigar-store Indian, the

unique folk goddess was carved from a seven-foot length of log and adorned with the talismans of her tribe—skis, snowshoes, a rifle, deer antlers, a rising mallard. At her feet, a frieze of painted songbirds, and a pine cone, perhaps an homage to her origins. Over her head, a legend, “NEW HAMPSHIRE”—the Granite State, White Mountain State, Mother of Rivers. Once, no doubt, the proud Venus of a summer camp or hunting lodge, the wooden blonde had fallen victim to the ravages of weather, insects, rot, and building materials. It was clear just looking at her that she was in bad shape. There were numerous vertical splits in the wood, and cross-grain breaks ran across her chest and legs. The center of the log, hollow from exposure and decay, had been filled at various times with plaster, cement, and the fiberglass resin used in auto body shops. The weight of the interior fill was more than the surviving wood shell could support, further compromising the statue. The “Painted Lady,” as she came to be called, entered the Williamstown Art Conservation Center on her back. Hugh Glover, WACC’s chief conservator of furniture and wood objects, had tackled few jobs as challenging and fascinating. “Usually most of the things that come here are predictable,” he said. “This was perplexing. I really didn’t know what the next step was till I completed the present step.” To begin, Glover excavated as much loose cement and plaster as he could via the top and bottom openings of the log. The sculpture was then pried apart along an existing longitudinal crack, and the remaining fill eliminated, occasionally with the help of a drill and circular concrete saw. “It was painstaking work to carve away such robust fill materials from such a compromised wood shell,” Glover said. In addition to the inert material, he also found and removed areas of brown rot, clumps of cotton fiber, rodent nests, and a confetti of red pistachio shells. Glover was careful to leave intact any material, including plaster patches, that was visible from the outside. Cement and pistachio shells gone, the Lady’s weight was decreased from two hundred thirteen pounds to one hundred twenty five. With the fill removed, Glover supported the thin wall of remaining wood with epoxy resin. At certain points during the treatment, the Lady looked like Humpty Dumpty spread out on the work bench of the wood lab. Nevertheless, Glover put her whole again, methodically reassembling the sections and parts, including irregular fragments of the exterior he refitted like 3-D puzzle pieces. The secret to success: “Not being afraid of it.” The statue could stand upright again after an existing base was attached by means of a wooden post extending into the cavity of the log, and held fast by bulkable epoxy fed in through an existing

14 | Art Conservator | Fall 2010

knothole. That knothole lies in the upper corner of a conservation pledge carved in rough capital letters. As the

Treatment Report

oath of those who sat at the Lady’s

Title: Sioux/Nakota/Yankton Headdress

feet, the pledge would have been

Owner: Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College

progressive for its time (which, from

Conservator: Allison McCloskey

the style of her two-piece bathing suit, was around World War II). Today,

Description: Circa 1900 headdress with semi-tanned

its environmental awareness seems

hide crown and decorative components. Across the


front and sides is a line of immature golden eagle

Conservation Pledge I give my pledge as an American to save and faithfully to defend from waste the natural resources of my country—its soil and minerals its forests waters and wildlife.

feathers with shafts wrapped in red wool fabric. The fabric is of two types, mostly right-hand twill, the remainder plain weave. The tips of the feathers are adorned with white fur and dyed horsehair. Feathers continue down the back, secured onto two fabric panels with a split hide thong or lace. A second thong, threaded through the vanes of the feathers and around the shafts, allows the feathers to move as a single unit. A one-inch band of overlay-stitched seed beading decorates the front edge. White ermine pelts with tails hang from each temple. Condition: Generally good. There are small losses on the perimeter of several feathers from previous pest infestation, which does not appear active. The vanes of the feathers are separated and misaligned in sections. Canvas lining of the back panels has several stains. Fur and hair ornament adhered to the tips of the feathers is missing on feathers from shoulder to knee. There is a soil layer overall. Ultraviolet examination: Of the red fabric types, the twill shows no fluorescence while the plain weave flouresces bright orange, indicating differences in dye and/or processing procedures. 1. Surface cleaned overall with variable-speed HEPAfilter vacuum. 2. Cleaned beads with cotton swabs and a solution of deionized water and ethanol. 3. Groomed and realigned vanes of feathers with gentle manipulation, allowing barbs to interlock.

Opposite, the large carved wooden sculpture, aka the “Painted Lady,” after treatment. Above, detail of the statue’s verso, which includes carvings of deer antlers, skis, cable car, rifle, snowshoes, and mallard duck.

4. Made base for extant acrylic support rod, for transport and storage.

Treatment Report is an editorial feature based on conservators’ reports. Wording may not be verbatim.

Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 15

WACC News & Notes

One of six eight-foot bullfight posters after treatment by the WACC paper department; at right, posters drying on custom-made racks.

Bullfight Posters Highlight Capacity for Oversized Works Art collector Robert Deeley was in his 30s when he traveled to

highlighted the WACC paper department’s capacity to successfully

Spain in the early 1950s. The country was gorgeous, he recalls,

handle oversized works. Each poster was carefully unfolded and

a place of “interesting food and exciting people,” and, on hot

surface cleaned with a dry soft brush to remove soil and mold

summer Sundays, a land of pageantry and the savage thrill of the

spores. The sheer size dictated that only one poster could be

bullfight. Deeley visited bullfight arenas from Cordoba to Valencia

treated at a time. Each poster was humidified between sheets of

to Madrid, and was attracted by the oversized broadsides pasted

damp Gore-Tex in preparation for lining. The moisture from the

on the walls to advertise upcoming matches. Through friends, he

Gore-Tex relaxed the folds and creases and allowed the poster to

managed to obtain several posters in pristine condition. He folded

be pasted out face-down with starch paste. The lining required

the posters neatly into his luggage, and once home, placed them in

three conservators, two to hold the nine foot strips of heavy-weight

storage, where they remained untouched for some sixty years.

Japanese paper and a third to brush out the lining for proper

Deeley, now 91, recently brought six posters to the

adhesion. After overnight drying between felts, the broadsides

Williamstown Art Conservation Center to prepare them for sale.

were stretch-dried on custom-made panels under moderate

After six decades, they had developed pronounced creases

tension for four weeks.

and folds, slight mold and water staining, and some small tears

“Size was the most challenging aspect of the treatment,”

or other losses. These condition issues prevented the bold

said paper conservator Rebecca Johnston. “Each lining was an

chromolithographic images of matadors facing charging bulls from

exhausting and somewhat stressful procedure, but also hugely

being properly framed or viewed.

rewarding.” The posters are now ready for archival framing. These

The treatment of the eight-foot by nearly-four-foot posters 16 | Art Conservator | Fall 2010

colorful and striking images can be viewed upright once again.

WACC Staff

New conservators join paper department

Thomas Branchick Director; Conservator of Paintings/Dept. Head

Jennifer McGlinchey was recently named Assistant Paper and Photograph Conservator at the Williamstown Art Conservation Center, and her arrival in September has augmented the paper department’s range of services with the addition of expertise in photographic conservation. Jennifer has an MA in Art Conservation from Buffalo State College, State University of New York, with a concentration in paper and photograph conservation. She comes to WACC from the photograph conservation lab at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, where she worked with photograph conservator Toshiaki Koseki. As a graduate student, Jennifer completed internships at the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Menil Collection, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, and the Alaska State Libraries, Archives and Museums. Prior to enrolling at Buffalo State, she worked as an intern in photograph conservation at Paul Messier, LLC in Boston, and also completed internships in paintings and objects conservation. Jennifer has experience photogravures, ambrotypes, carbon prints, chromogenic prints, digital prints, and many others. A native of the Boston area, Jennifer holds a BFA in Photography from Massachusetts College creation. Jennifer has a particular interest in 19th-century photographs, Polaroids, face-mounted photographs, and other contemporary prints.

Hugh Glover Conservator of Furniture and Wood Objects/Dept. Head

Teresa Haskins Accounts Manager Rebecca Johnston Conservator of Paper

Mary Broadway joined the team in the WACC paper lab in fulfillment of her third-year internship as an art conservation student at Buffalo State College.

Henry Klein Conservation Technician

Mary arrived in Williamstown following a summer internship at the National Galleries in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she was instrumental in the completion

materials, books, photographs, drawings, prints, and watercolors.

John Conzett Office Manager

Matthew Hamilton Photography Technician

of Art and Design in Boston, where she gained a love of historical photographic process re-

Art. Mary has experience working with a range of objects, including archival

Mary Broadway Third-year Intern/Paper

Lauren LaFlam Assistant Conservator of Objects

treating many types of photographs, including albumen prints, gelatin silver prints, cyanotypes,

of a survey of the prints and drawings collection at the Gallery of Modern

Mary Catherine Betz Associate Conservator of Paintings

Montserrat Le Mense Conservator of Paintings Cynthia Luk Conservator of Paintings; International Projects Allison McCloskey Assistant Conservator of Objects and Textiles Jennifer McGlinchey Assistant Conservator of Paper and Photographs Leslie Paisley Conservator of Paper/Dept. Head Kathleen Payne de Chavez Assistant Conservator of Furniture and Wood Objects Michelle Savant Associate Conservator of Objects/Atlanta Larry Shutts Associate Conservator of Paintings/Atlanta

Krasner on Pollock An untitled 1949 oil painitng by Lee Krasner was recently brought to WACC for examination after the owner observed what appeared to be telltale paint drips under Krasner’s work. X-radiography revealed an earlier, unrelated composition (right) beneath the Krasner that bears a strong resemblance to work her husband, Jackson Pollock, was

Amanda Turner Office Assistant Sandra Webber Conservator of Paintings

creating around the same time. Krasner made no attempt to cover Pollock’s work; indeed, she incorporated it into the negative spaces of her own composition. Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 17

Report from Atlanta

Objects treatment comes to Atlanta as AACC welcomes new conservators A new era began at the Atlanta Art Conservation Center in July with the arrival of husband and wife conservators Larry Shutts

glass, ceramics, wood, and leather. The Atlanta Art Conservation Center is owned by the

and Michelle Savant. Shutts, Associate Paintings Conservator,

Williamstown Art Conservation Center and housed and

has taken over day-to-day administration of AACC, while Savant,

sponsored by the High Museum of Art. Clients include members

Associate Objects Conservator, brings to the Southeast vitally

of the AACC consortium of museums from three states in

needed services for objects care and

the Southeast, local and regional


non-member institutions, and private collectors. Savant said she has enjoyed

Shutts and Savant each received an M.A., C.A.S. in Art Conservation from

the challenge of transitioning from a

Buffalo State College, State University

museum environment to a regional

of New York. The couple relocated

center that includes services for private

from Washington, D.C., where Savant

clients. “It is very different working

was a contract objects conservator for

with museum curators and collections

the Smithsonian Institution’s National

specialists,” she said, “compared to

Museum of American History, and Shutts

Larry Shutts

Michelle Savant

private individuals who may start the conversation with ‘I have never owned

worked for Page Conservation, a private paintings practice. The couple began work at the Center this

a piece of art before.’ Education of the public about what AACC

summer, taking over from previous husband-wife team James

can do for them is an almost-daily part of the job.”

Squires and Yasuko Ogino, who had guided the center since its opening in 2001. The arrival of Savant in Atlanta makes objects conservation

The couple worked together on the treatment for Wilson Hurley’s Apollo, a recent acquisition for the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville, GA. Hurley (1924-2008) was a prominent

a new full-time specialty for AACC. “All our members have said

landscape painter known for his views of western vistas. This

to Larry, ‘Once people find out there is an objects conservator

painting celebrating man’s landing on the moon is a departure.

on staff, she will be inundated with work,’” Savant said. She has

The four-foot square oil-on-canvas was brought to AACC with

created object-specific protocols and acquired specialized tools

planar distortions, a yellowed varnish layer, surface scratches,

and materials to treat a variety of object types, including metals,

and light dirt and grime accumulation. The planar distortions were removed by tensioning the stretcher with its keys, removing the tacks near the distortions, then restretching and retacking the canvas. A greasy residue on the surface required a dual cleaning, once with diammonium citrate cleared with deionized water, then with microemulsion, also cleared with deionized water. A final layer of Damar varnish was spray-applied to fill the scratches. The painting was heavily yellowed in part due to a thick original layer of natural resin varnish, which is yellowish in tone. The yellowed varnish could not be removed because of the painting’s relatively recent vintage. The work, created in 1985, is still young by oilpainting standards, and the paint hasn’t had sufficient time to fully harden. Over time, bonds in pigment-oil binders cross-link to make paint hard, a process that typically takes several decades. At this stage of the painting’s life, removal of the varnish layer most likely would have removed the paint layer as well. Wilson Hurley’s Apollo, 1985, after treatment.

18 | Art Conservator | Fall 2010

Tech Notes, Fall 2010

Simple Non-Adhesive Methods for Conservation Mounting of Photographs By Jennifer McGlinchey Non-adhesive methods for mounting photographs and works on paper are often preferred because common adhesives (i.e. pressure sensitive tape, rubber cement, spray mount, glues and many other types, even when they are labeled “archival”) can cause damage. Over time, these adhesives can seep into the prints, discolor, and release acids that will stain, fade and damage a photograph. Even worse, most pressure sensitive adhesives will fail as the adhesive ages, and are not easily (or ever) removed from prints without causing damage. Even wheat starch paste and other water-based adhesives can cause distortion or damage to sensitive photographs. T‌he methods outlined in this article do require adhesives, but the adhesive never comes into contact with the artwork. Many of these methods support the corners or edges of the print with archival paper or inert plastic, so only the constructed supports require adhesives to secure them beneath a window mat. Below are a few examples of some of the many techniques that can be used for mounting photographs in a window mat for exhibition or storage. Window mats made from archival mat board (4-ply or thicker) are useful for storage and exhibition because they keep the photograph from coming into direct contact with glazing or other materials. Considerations for mounting photographs

Evaluate each photograph and employ mounting methods that will provide adequate support for the size and weight of the print. T‌he methods outlined in this article can be used for many types of photographs, but may not be adequate for large format prints (larger than 20x24 inches), light-weight prints (such as unmounted albumen prints), prints that are damaged, torn, or mounted. Attachment at the corners or the edges may not provide enough support for such prints, so buckling or sagging may occur. For large or heavy prints, these mounting systems may fail, which may allow the print to slip, causing damage. Avoid touching the surface of the photograph during the mounting process. Hands should be freshly washed and dried. Well-fitting medical gloves are recommended as even clean hands can leave fingerprints that may mar the surface and cause permanent damage to the photograph. Add interleaving paper larger than the photograph to protect the surface of the print from dust and abrasion. Papers described below can be used. Materials for Non-adhesive Mounting

Selecting materials described as “archival” may not be good enough, so look for materials that have passed the photographic activity test (PAT). T‌hese materials have undergone more rigorous testing and have proven themselves to be safe for storage of photographic materials. Paper and matboard should be unbuffered (neutral pH ~ 7) and free from acids, lignin, Williamstown Art Conservation Center  |  19

Tech Notes, Fall 2010

and sulfur. Alkaline buffered materials (pH ~ 8-9) may be used for some types of photographs, but should never be used on cyanotypes, color, digital, or other prints that may be sensitive to a high pH. When in doubt, use unbuffered materials in direct contact with the print. Recommended materials include: Cut

• Use mid-weight papers for support strips or corners to provide adequate support and prevent embossing. Use light-weight papers for interleaving.

Photograph Archival Paper (1 inch larger on all sides) Figure 1. Paper pocket. Mark lines as indicated, then remove photograph and cut.

• Only stable, acid-free adhesives should be used. T‌hese should never come into direct contact with the print.

Fold second

Fold second

• Photo-Tex tissue (available from Archivart) is a 100% cotton paper, which is designed exclusively for contact with photographs. Suitable for support strips, corners and interleaving. • Use only inert plastics like polyester (Mylar), polyethylene, or polypropylene.

Fold first

• Gummed linen or cotton tape with a water soluble adhesive • Archival quality pressure sensitive adhesive tapes are available. T‌hey are easy to use and don’t require a moistening step (example: Filmoplast P90.)

Photograph Fold last

Figure 2. Paper Pocket after folding.

Mounting Methods

Paper Pocket T‌his method uses a sheet of paper that is slightly larger than the photograph. All four edges of the mounting paper are cut and folded to support the print. [Fig. 1] T‌he long edges are then taped in place with archival tape. [Fig. 2] T‌his is a good choice for photographs with damaged, distorted or brittle edges.

Archival Paper Photograph Figure 3. Archival paper Z-fold, end view.

Z-fold edge strip

Z-fold edge strip

• Paper made from 100% cotton (also known as 100% rag) flax, or alpha cellulose.



Sling or Edge Strips T‌his method provides excellent support for most photographs. It uses strips of archival paper or clear polyester that have been folded in a “Z” form. [Fig. 3] T‌he print is supported by the inner channel created by the Z-fold and the support strips are adhered in place at the edges. [Fig. 4] T‌his method can be used for prints on light-weight paper or with fragile edges.

Z-fold edge strip

Archival tape

Figure 4. Photograph with Z-fold edge strips in place. Cut vertical strips, leaving bottom fold intact, to accommodate the horizontal strips.

20 | Art Conservator | Fall 2010

Photo Corners When done correctly, photo corners can be a simple and quick way to mount and secure photographs into window mats for exhibition or storage. But beware: significant damage can occur if photo corners are made from inappropriate materials, improperly


applied, or if prints are forced in and out of corners. Paper photo corners are commercially available, but corners are simple to make and can be tailored to the size of your print. T‌he diagrams describe how to make and use photo corners. Corners are best for prints that have a wide margin and/or can be “over-matted” so the corners can secure the print to the backing board without obscuring the image area. Commercially made corners made from clear polyester may be used if the corners will show, but be careful that it they are not too rigid or have any sharp edges that may damage the print. To soften the sharp cut edges, thin Japanese tissue inserts can be slid into the polyester corner to create a barrier between the print and the edge of the polyester. Corners should be as large as can be accommodated by the margin and the over-mat. If corners are too small, the print may slip, causing mechanical damage. For example: a typical 8x10 gelatin silver or color print should have a corner that measures at least 1 inch at the height of the triangle. You should increase corner size as the print size goes up.


Step 1: Start with a strip of archival paper. Height of strip will determine corner size.

Step 2: Fold into right triangle.


Mounting a photograph with corners

With the corners constructed, you will need a photograph with prepared mat board and backing board, and archival tape. Ensure that the corners are large enough to support the weight of the print, but not so large that they obscure the image. If the margins of the print are small, you can cut a triangular notch into the corner (see illustration) to block less of the image while still providing adequate support to the edges. Place the photograph face up on a prepared backing board and position the image in the window mat. It is helpful to secure the print in place with a small soft weight, but place a small piece of clean archival paper or unwoven polyester between the weight and the print to prevent soiling and scratching the surface of the photograph. Never put any weight on a photograph with a sensitive or damaged surface. Position the photo corners by carefully sliding the open pocket of the photo corner onto each corner of the print. T‌he solid triangle should be on the front of the image. Try not to move the print. T‌he corners should be comfortably snug on the print, but allow some space for the print to expand, about 1/16 inch. Adhere the corners in place with a strip of tape placed diagonally along the long part of the corner. Position the tape at least 1/4 inch from the edge of the photo corner. If you have cut a notch in the photo corner, you should place two pieces of tape on

Step 3: Flip the corner over and slide onto photograph

Archival tape

Step 4: Tape corner in place. Tape should not come into contact with print.

Modification: Cut notch to reveal more of the photograph.

Williamstown Art Conservation Center  |  21

Tech Notes, Fall 2010

the edges of the photo corner. T‌he tape should not come into contact with the photograph. Ensure that the tape has good contact with the photo corners and the backing board. Print is ready for exhibition or storage. If the corners are the adequate size, they should support the print when displayed vertically.

print, leading to irreversible cracks and micro fissures that will reduce the life of the print and degrade the image.

References Lavédrine, Bertrand. A Guide to the Preventive Conservation of Photograph Collections. Getty Conservation Institute, LA. 2003.

Removal of photo corners

Extreme care should be taken when removing prints from any mounting system. Improper removal or handling of mounted prints is a common cause of damage, so it is best to limit or eliminate the need to un-mount prints. T‌he simplest way to remove the print from corners is to cut the tape with a sharp blade at least 1/16 inch away from the photo corner to prevent cutting the print. T‌his way, only the tape is being cut, so there is less danger that you will accidentally cut the print. Avoid flexing the corners of the print to slide it out with the corners in place. Flexing and bending of photographs can damage the multi-layered structure of the

Munro, Susan Nash. “Making Mounting Corners for Photographs and Paper Objects.” Conserve-o-gram 14/1. National Park Service, US Department of the Interior, July 1993. Phibbs, Hugh. “Edge Strips and Other Hinge Alternatives for Preservation Framing.” Supplement to Picture Framing Magazine, April 2001. Reilly, James M. Care and Identification of 19th Century Photographic Prints. Eastman Kodak Company, 1986. Wilhelm, Henry. T‌he Permanence and Care of Color Photographs. Preservation Publishing Company, 1993.

Jennifer McGlinchey was named Assistant Paper and Photograph Conservator at the Williamstown Art Conservation Center in September. Jennifer has an MA in Art Conservation from Buffalo State College, State University of New York, with a concentration in paper and photograph conservation. She comes to WACC from the photograph conservation lab at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, where she worked with photograph conservator Toshiaki Koseki. A complete bio is on page 17.

22 | Art Conservator | Fall 2010

Members of the Consortium


Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art,

Roland Gibson Gallery, State

Art Conservation Center

Cornell University

University of New York

227 South Street, Williamstown, MA 01267

—Ithaca, NY Historic Deerfield, Inc. Deerfield, MA

Addison Gallery of American Art,

Hood Museum of Art,

Phillips Academy

Dartmouth College

—Andover, MA Albany Institute of History and Art —Albany, NY Alice T. Miner Colonial Collection —Chazy, NY The Arkell Museum —Canajoharie, NY Arnot Art Museum —Elmira, NY Art Complex Museum —Duxbury, MA Atlanta Historical Society, Inc. —Atlanta, GA Bennington Museum —Bennington, VT Berkshire Museum —Pittsfield, MA Bowdoin College Museum of Art —Brunswick, ME Charles P. Russell Gallery, Deerfield Academy —Deerfield, MA The Cheney Homestead of the Manchester Historical Society —Manchester, CT Colby College Museum of Art —Waterville, ME Connecticut Historical Society —Hartford, CT The Daura Gallery at Lynchburg College —Lynchburg, VA Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art —Amherst, MA The Farnsworth Art Museum —Rockland, ME Fort Ticonderoga —Ticonderoga, NY Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center Vassar College —Poughkeepsie, NY Frederic Remington Art Museum —Ogdensburg, NY Gersho n Benjamin Foundation, —Clayton, GA

—Hanover, NH The Hyde Collection —Glens Falls, NY The Lawrenceville School —Lawrenceville, NJ Mead Art Museum, Amherst College —Amherst, MA Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester —Rochester, NY Middlebury College Museum of Art —Middlebury, VT Mount Holyoke College Art Museum —South Hadley, MA

St. Johnsbury Athenaeum

of our cultural heritage; to provide

—Northampton, MA Springfield Library and Museums Association

examination, treatment, consultation and related conservation services for member institutions, and for

—Springfield, MA Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

other non-profit organizations, corporations and individuals; to conduct educational programs with

—Williamstown, MA Suzy Frelinghuysen and George L.K. Morris Foundation

respect to the care and conservation of works of art and objects of cultural interest; to participate in the

—Lenox, MA

training of conservators; to promote

Tioga Point Museum

the importance of conservation

—Athens, PA

and increase the awareness of the

Union College

issues pertinent to collections care;

—Schenectady, NY

and to conduct research and dis-

Vermont Historical Society

seminate knowledge to advance the

—Montpelier, VT Alliance

—Hartford, CT

conserve and maintain the objects

Smith College Museum of Art,


he mission of the Williamstown Art Conservation Center, a

non-profit institution, is to protect,

—St. Johnsbury, VT

Vermont Museum and Gallery

Museum of Connecticut History


—Potsdam, NY

Munson Williams Proctor Arts —Utica, NY

Mission Statement


—Shelburne, VT Williams College Museum of Art —Williamstown, MA

Neuberger Museum, Purchase College, State University of New York —Purchase, NY New Hampshire Historical Society —Concord, NH New York State Office of General Services, Empire State Plaza Art Collection —Albany, NY Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge —Stockbridge, MA Picker Art Gallery,

Atlanta Art Conservation Center 6000 Peachtree Road Atlanta, GA 30341 Alabama Historical Commission —Montgomery, AL Booth Western Art Museum —Cartersville, GA Brenau University —Gainesville, GA Columbia Museum of Art —Columbia, SC The Columbus Museum

Colgate University

—Columbus, GA

—Hamilton, NY

High Museum of Art

Portland Museum of Art —Portland, ME Preservation Society of Newport County —Newport, RI Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art

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

—Providence, RI The Rockwell Museum of Western Art —Corning, NY

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