A P U B L I C A T I O N O F T H E W I L L I A M S T O W N A R T C O N S E R V A T I O N C E N T E R
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Oldenburg’s Soft Fan Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 1
Contents, Fall 2014
Art Conservator Volume 9, Number 2 • Fall 2014 Director Thomas J. Branchick Editor Timothy Cahill Art Direction and Production Ed Atkeson/Berg Design Photographer Matthew Hamilton Contributors Graham C. Boettcher, Melissa Horn, Christine Puza, Sandra Webber Proofreader David Brickman Office Manager Rob Conzett Accounts Manager Teresa Haskins Printing Snyder Printer, Troy, NY Williamstown Art Conservation Center 227 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
3 Director’s Letter 4 When the Grit Hits the Fan
Claes Oldenburg, Pop, and the conservation of the everyday By Melissa Horn
History and lore meet in a model of Shinnecock Hills Golf Course Christine Puza 10 Burchfield’s Landscape Mysticism
12 WACC News & Notes
William Sidney Mount’s Eel Spearing; Bryant’s homestead wallpaper; Abraham Lincoln’s stovepipe hat 16 Report from Atlanta
Dramatic measures save portrait by the “Artist of the Confederacy” By Graham C. Boettcher
Colormen and their Marks Sandra Webber
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 X-ray image revealing construction of Claes Oldenburg’s 1965 Model for Soft Fan.
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Links to the Past
From the Director
After more than ten years of planning and construction, the Clark Art Institute’s major new Clark Center has opened and it is sensational. The new addition is a companion to our home here in the (recently renamed) Lunder Center at Stone Hill, both being the creation of Japanese master architect Tadao Ando. Clark Center includes new visitor facilities, a pair of excellent temporary exhibition galleries, and an elegant, multi-tiered reflecting pool that mirrors the hills and sky of our Berkshire landscape. The paintings of the permanent collection, many of which were on national tour, have been returned to the reconfigured galleries of the original building, and I get great satisfaction in seeing old friends (many of which I personally treated) back home. Among the inaugural exhibits was Make It New: Abstract Paintings from the National Gallery of Art: 1950-1975, brilliantly installed in the glorious new subterranean gallery. The presence at the Clark of Pollack, Rothko, and other major American abstractionists sent a powerful signal that a new day had dawned at the venerable museum. With a major retrospective of Paul Feely’s paintings opening this November at the Albright Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York, I spent the summer preparing more than a dozen of the artist’s large abstract canvases. Curious visitors asked what I was doing outside the Center in shorts, tee shirt, and wet sandals, readying the paintings for display with de-ionized water and sunshine. “You can do that and it works?” they asked. Yes it does, if you know the secret. This issue of Art Conservator features the maquette for Claes Oldenberg’s Soft Fan sculptures — a historically significant piece of early Pop art. The X-ray of the piece’s blade assembly makes a very graphic cover photo. The treatment was a team effort, involving conservators from two departments working with our Lenett fellow from Williams College. It was one of our most interesting projects for the annual Judith M. Lenett Memorial Fellowship, which celebrates its twentieth year at WACC. We are extremely proud to offer this educational opportunity with Williams College and the Clark, and pleased to carry forward the legacy and memory of Judith Lenett in such a worthy manner. —Tom Branchick
WACC director Thomas Branchick in shorts and sandals treating the large canvases of Paul Feeley under the summer sun. Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 3
When the Grit Hits the Fan Claes Oldenburg, Pop, and the conservation of the everyday By Melissa Horn This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the Judith M. Lenett Memorial Fellowship, a joint project of the Williamstown Art Conservation Center, Williams College, and The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Each academic year, the Lenett Fellowship is awarded to a second-year student in the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art, to explore issues of art conservation in the field of American art. Working closely with WACC conservators, each fellow spends two semesters conserving and researching an American art object. This year’s Lenett Fellow, Melissa Horn, worked on Model for Soft Fan by Claes Oldenburg, under the guidance of Leslie Paisley, WACC head paper conservator, and Hélène Gillette-Woodard, head objects conservator. The project culminated in a public lecture by Ms. Horn at the Clark. The article below is adapted from that presentation. The full text of the original lecture is available at www.williamstownart.org.
magine this: you walk into a museum and see a sculpture on a pedestal— Model for Soft Fan, the label says, from 1965, by the artist Claes Oldenburg. It depicts an oscillating fan, with the usual blades, head, and body, but it looks broken. In fact, it looks beyond broken: it seems defeated, demoralized, crushed. But of course, it’s supposed to be that way. Oldenburg worked during the 1960s, when a playful new breed of Pop artists pulled, stretched, and broke everyday objects to subvert and expand what we call art. The drooping fan’s broken appearance was part of the work’s artistic argument: it was, in other words, intentional. Now imagine you walk into an art conservation lab and see the same fan. You know the work is there because it needs treatment—it must be broken. But wait. Doesn’t Oldenburg play with brokenness? How do you know which parts need fixing? If an artist meant for a piece to look damaged or distorted, what does it mean to repair it? In the conservation lab, such theoretical quandaries about an artist’s intention take on a practical urgency. These sorts of questions were, indeed, exactly what entered my mind when I first encountered Oldenburg’s Model for Soft Fan at the Williamstown Art Conservation Center. The work is a maquette, a kind of three-dimensional sketch, for two much larger works from 1967, called Giant Soft Fan and Giant Soft Fan, Ghost Version. There are a lot of differences between the maquette and the finished works. Our fan—the model, owned by the Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton, Massachusetts—is approximately two feet high. The finished versions are ten feet high. Our fan is mostly
paper and cardboard. The larger fans are predominantly vinyl. Maybe most significantly for conservation purposes, the finished versions hang by a chain from the ceiling, whereas our piece is adhered to a base. Yet, curiously, at one point our model was more similar to the final work than when it came to us. In the object file for the fan, with past conservation reports and records of ownership, we received an odd photograph of our maquette hanging from a wall, tipped over backwards. We could only guess at why it was exhibited this way. Did it fall over when it was upright and just look better hung up? Or did the previous owner know something about Oldenburg’s intention that we didn’t? Regardless of the reason, it was clear to the curators at Smith that gravity wasn’t doing the model any favors. When the college museum accessioned the piece in 1979, it was in danger of being ripped off its base by own weight. In response to this threat, Smith curators had the work conserved at another lab in the early 1980s. There, conservators performed major repairs to return the piece to its standing position. Over the intervening three decades, however, the fan had slumped forward again. The main aim of our treatment was to stabilize the structural integrity of the piece, to reverse the fan’s forward slump and help prevent it from sagging in the future. A second major task was both cosmetic and chemical. The piece was covered with a mysterious, dust-like white coating. On closer inspection, the coating proved to be a chemical efflorescence that had bloomed out from the paint itself. This was the first issue I addressed. Because the maquette is made Claes Oldenburg, Model for Soft Fan, 1965, after treatment.
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primarily of paper elements, I worked with Leslie Paisley, head of the WACC paper lab. She and I tackled the efflorescence. Before beginning the treatment, we analyzed the sculpture to understand how Oldenburg had fit all the elements together. The fan’s base is constructed of a brown kraft-paper bag, turned upside down and stapled to a cardboard ring. Oldenburg then opened the bottom of a second bag to make a cylinder and placed a circle of cardboard on either end of the tube to form a kind of drum. Stapled shut, this construction formed the head or motor housing of the maquette. To make the fan blades, Oldenburg stapled four cardboard ovoids to a central cross-shaped piece of cardboard. Finally, the loopy shape that encircles the work represents the fan’s electrical cord and is made from bits of clothesline held together by electrical tape. X-ray photography revealed that Oldenburg attached the blades to the head by running a wire through both elements, which he secured by wrapping around a nail on each side to pull the wire taut. The X-ray also exposed a bright cross shape attached to the blade construction and concealed by cardboard and electrical tape; this turned out to be a metal insert created by the previous conservators to give the blades added support. Inspection revealed a second main element of that previous treatment as well: additional internal support for the paper bag that forms the fan’s base. The conservators had lined the original bag with canvas to stiffen and protect the brittle kraft paper; they then filled the cavity with polyethylene microbeads, which are like tiny packing peanuts, giving the internal bag more mass and greater support in its upright position.
Detail of stearic acid “bloom” caused by crystallized fats in the oil-based paint. 6 | Art Conservator | Fall 2014
Now that we understood how the sculpture was made, we turned to cleaning the white efflorescence. An efflorescence is the dried remnants of a substance that has lost it moisture; in this case, it was clearly something associated with the model’s paint layer. The pattern of the bloom precisely followed the original drip pattern of the paint. A detail photograph of one area showed how the material crystallized on top of the paint layer, thin in some places, but very thick in others, like little piles of snow. Analysis suggested that the crystalized material was stearic acid, a saturated fat found in cocoa butter and shea butter. What was this compound doing on the surface of our sculpture? Interestingly, research revealed that ours was not the only Oldenburg to have developed this kind of bloom. In 2009, a sculpture called Floor Cake made of painted canvas showed the same powdery efflorescence on the cake’s chocolate drop. Both our sculpture and the chocolate drop were painted with an oil-based paint containing synthetic stearic acid. The powdery efflorescence on these works is the result of the stearic acid migrating out of the paint and crystallizing on the surface of the sculpture. (There is an irony to this efflorescence appearing on the cake sculpture’s chocolate drop. The same thing happens to the fat in actual chocolate as well, as anyone knows who has opened an old bag of chocolate chips and found they have turned all weird and white. This phenomenon is called chocolate bloom, and it’s basically the same process: the cocoa fat migrates out of the chocolate compound it had been a part of and appears on the surface.) Alkyd resin paints like the one on Model for Soft Fan were manufactured as inexpensive paint for artists, but they were also formulated as house paint. In fact, pretty much every material in the maquette could have been purchased in a hardware store. Oldenburg chose to work with common materials manufactured to be inexpensive rather than last a long time. This choice has had dire effects on the longevity of his work. The phrase conservators use to describe a material that deteriorates due to internal, intrinsic factors (as opposed to external forces) is “inherent vice.” Very often, artists don’t realize that a material is inherently unstable. Most of the materials in the fan maquette possessed this problem. Kraft paper bags, for example, like the ones Oldenburg used, are made from ground wood pulp, which contains high amounts of a compound called lignin. Lignin is acidic and over time makes paper brittle and dark (think of old newspapers). Corrugated cardboard is similarly acidic. Plastics, like the
mind, it was definitely Oldenburg’s intention that the fan never electrical tape that covers parts of the fan, are disastrous from look too perky. a conservation standpoint. Plastics constitute a huge area of What did the X-rays tell us about the fan’s structural research in the conservation of modern and contemporary art, as weaknesses? Because of how the piece was slumped over, the artists used plastics with increasing frequency into the twentiethweak spot appeared to be at the neck, but in truth it was in the century and our own. “Plastic” is a single word used to describe joint where the blades met the head. The cross-shaped piece of thousands of different types of synthetic compounds, each of metal from the previous treatment was very thin, more like foil. which can respond differently to aging. Artworks made from Over time, it had flexed and caused the slumping. We needed to plastic might warp, crack, become soft and sticky, or crumble figure out another way to support the blades. into powder. Plastic artifacts and works of art aren’t just dangers Working now with Hélène Gillette-Woodard, head of to themselves, but to things around them: the gases certain the WACC objects lab, we decided on two options for the compounds give off as they degrade can, for instance, corrode structural treatment. The first involved contracting an external metal. mount maker to fabricate a thin piece of metal that would be I cleaned the bloom with a fluffy brush made from goat permanently hair, working attached to the in broad, round piece’s pedestal. strokes to gently The top of this dislodge the brace would be majority of the soldered to two powder, which I horseshoe-shaped then vacuumed pieces of metal off. Because it that would hold was crystallized up the blades oil, the bloom through a slight made the brush compression. This feel thick and solution would be greasy, like dog minimally invasive fur. Using a to the piece, which variety of brush was a benefit, but it shapes and sizes would also be quite with stiff bristles visible to viewers. to navigate the Lenett fellow Melissa Horn in the WACC objects department. In option two, work’s small we would fabricate a new aluminum cross-shaped support, the crannies, I worked my way into the cardboard’s corrugated same shape as the earlier piece, but thicker and stronger. This ridges, underneath the nails at the front and back of the plywood cross-shaped insert would be totally hidden from sight and blend base, and along the long, thin folds in the fan’s body. in with the piece. We would still contract an external mount Though I removed all the white particulates, we can’t know maker to fabricate supports for the blades made of curved metal, whether the paint is finished weeping stearic acid or if the bloom which would be attached with a nut directly to the new cross will reappear. Only time will tell if the sculpture will need to be support. The mount would be much smaller and less visible, but cleaned of its fatty acids again in the future. we would have to dismantle the artwork to install it, a much By this time, the fan and I had spent several weeks spent more invasive treatment. The more invasive a procedure, the together in the lab. We had gotten to know each other pretty more inherent the risk that something might go wrong. Smith well, and after a while I started to think of “it” as a “him.” I felt a College chose this option anyway, for, despite being more risky, it kind of sympathy: he had had a rough life, and even besides the would provide the best support for the piece in the long run. efflorescence and the mechanical problems, he had the pathetic Hélène unwrapped Oldenburg’s original wire from one of the air of a sad sack, Willy Loman-type character. It was clear that continued on page 18 in repairing the fan we needed to preserve its personality. To my Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 7
Links to the Past History and lore meet in a model of Shinnecock Hills Golf Course by Christine Puza Assistant Conservator of Furniture and Wood Objects
o golf aficionados, the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, New York, is one of the world’s legendary venues. Built on the edge of Long Island Sound, it is a traditional old links course of tall grass and stiff winds, and has been the site of the prestigious U.S. Open four times across three centuries. The club’s Stanford White-designed clubhouse was built in 1892 and its first twelve-hole course laid out in 1895. Shinnecock Hills was completely redesigned into a modern eighteen-hole course in 1931, but it is still possible to survey the original layout thanks to a topographical scale model that has preserved its charm and romance. The grand three-dimensional plaster map measures twelve feet by seven feet, and captures the fairways, hazards, greens, and surrounding geography of the “National Golf Links of America” as they appeared in 1911. For decades the model had decorated the stately clubhouse, until that building was renovated in 1991 and the old map moved to an outbuilding for storage. By then, it had lost much of its original power to conjure the past. At some point in its life, it
Conservator Chistine Puza inpaints the plaster relief map of Shinnecock Hills Golf Club.
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had suffered severe damage at the midpoint of the lower portion, which had been repaired with a rough layer of commercial plaster. Thickly applied over the map’s central shoreline, this repair covered the boundary between land and sea. Layers of repainting had also taken away much of the model’s original luster. Adding to the map’s historic importance is the identity of its maker, Edwin E. Howell (1847- 1911). An early geographer with the United States Geographical Service, Howell is believed to have originated the concept of the topographical model as a teaching tool in 1871 with a plaster map of the island of Santo Domingo. In 1876, his relief map of the Grand Canyon was prominently featured at the U.S. Centennial exposition in Philadelphia, and he was honored at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis with a retrospective exhibit of fifty-six models. Shinnecock Hills was his last work, completed shortly before his death. The treatment began with cross-sectional analysis of the overpaint found present on nearly all surfaces. Examination
revealed at least four layers of added paint on the surrounding green, non-relief regions, and three distinct layers covering the water. The wooden frame was also heavily overpainted with black and white commercial paints. The removal of these later paint layers to reveal the original surface comprised the majority of the treatment. Removing the overpaint also allowed the extent of the damage present on the lower portion to be evaluated. Except for the main area of damage, the original surface was intact and stable. Work on the area of the previous repair, particularly in the central part of the water, revealed that most of the original surface comprising the bay had been lost. Nearly all of Howell’s elaborate hand lettering was also missing, except for a few fragments on the far right and left. Fortunately, Shinnecock Hills had in its records a photograph of the model, taken around the time it was made, that clearly showed what the damaged legend had looked like. The photograph was scanned and projected onto the surface of the model, using the fragments of the original lettering for registration. In this way it was possible to achieve the correct size and orientation to accurately restore the missing text. The few original letters that remained retained their color scheme of black, white, and several shades of blue, and these intact regions were referenced Top, before treatment, overpaint obscures calligraphic details by cartographer Edwin to aid in accurate color matching. This E. Howell; at center, the same section restored by the author. Above, detail of an early projection technique was also used to photograph used to duplicate the original lettering. recreate the shoreline where it had been moss and a binding mixture of Jade 403 and Golden acrylics replaced by the thick, obtrusive fill. applied to the wire branches. One of the treatment’s most engaging aspects was the The end result of this extensive treatment is a model that is replication of missing foliage and trees. Taking direct cues structurally secure, visually complete, and faithful to Edwin H. from what remained of the original trees, as well as applying Howells’ original vision. The model will soon be on view over techniques used in model train landscapes, small bundles of the bar in the Shinnecock Hills clubhouse, where the world’s fine-gauge copper wire were twisted together, cut into lengths, top golfers will see it when the course hosts the 2018 U.S. Open then partially untwisted on one end to form a tree shape. The tournament. leaves of the trees were made of finely chopped sphagnum Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 9
Burchfield’s Landscape Mysticism I like to be able to advance and retreat just like a man writing a book. I doubt that very few [writers] ever sit down and leave a paragraph as it first comes into their head. They work over it, delete things and add things.... I like to do that just as they do. —Charles Burchfield
here was something at once contrary and visionary to the solo exhibit presented by the Museum of Modern Art in 1930, Charles Burchfield: Early Watercolors 1916 to 1918. The exhibition, the first one-artist show the stillnew museum ever mounted, contained paintings known to very few. By then, Burchfield was renowned as one of the “American Scene” genre realists that also included Edward Hopper and Grant Wood. But the MoMA show had nothing to do with Burchfield’s popular and saleable style of realism. Instead, it presented landscape paintings that were vivid, surreal, hallucinatory. Burchfield, who had turned to his more conventional style in part to support his family, was much closer in temperament to this earlier, more exuberant work. He declared 1917, when so many of the exhibit’s best paintings were created, his “Golden Year.” In 1943, as Burchfield turned 50, those youthful paintings called to him again. In middle age, he abandoned genre painting altogether and returned to his first love, the early watercolors. The master artist, now much more confident of his talent and vision, regarded the Golden Year pictures and determined they were not complete. Adding broad strips of paper around the perimeter of the existing small paintings, he transformed the originals into the nuclei of larger, more fully imagined works. Burchfield called these expanded pictures “reconstructions.” He explained that the smaller pictures, “had a germ of an idea in them … that hadn’t quite come off. By adding to them then I could make them work.” In 1948, Burchfield augmented one of the 1917 paintings with some two feet of additional paper to produce his masterful Summer Afternoon. By then, he had fully entered a kind of mystical union with nature, evidenced in how the four-foot painting buzzes, shimmers, vibrates and quakes with esoteric fecundity. “An artist must paint not what he sees in nature, but what is there,” Burchfield declared. “To do so, he must invent symbols, which, if properly used, make his work seem even more real than what is in front of him.” The painting, in the collection of the Williams College Museum of Art, arrived at the paper lab at the Williamstown Art Conservation Center in generally excellent condition after a conservation treatment in the 1980s to remove it from the artist’s original masonite support. After twenty years it had begun to sag and distort. Treatment to prepare it for an exhibition involved humidifying the paper to relax and expand the distortions before relining with bast-fibered Japanese paper and remounting with a release layer to a paper-faced aluminum honeycomb panel. The thicker and more stable panel returned the painting to plane, but necessitated modifications to the original Burchfield-made frame. WACC’s furniture and frames department modified the frame to accommodate Static Dispersive Acrylic glazing and the new thicker support panel. Above, Charles Burchfield’s Summer Afternoon, 1948, and at right, detail showing the artist’s signature. 10 | Art Conservator | Fall 2014
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WACC News & Notes
A rejuvenated masterpiece of antebellum America William Sidney Mount (1807-1868) was a pioneer among
York Times critic John Canady observed that “nothing, with Mount,
American painters for depicting African Americans with a
is quite as simple as it first looks.”
measure of respect, released from the overt dismissal, derision,
Mount’s depictions of African Americans can appear simplistic
and scorn that characterized his era’s imagination. In the decades
and vaguely offensive to twenty-first century eyes, but in
before the Civil War, Mount increasingly challenged these
antebellum America his portrayals pushed the envelope of racial
pernicious stereotypes, elevating black men and women to the
sympathy. He had grown up close to black men as servants and
center of his pictures, often as the main characters of his affable,
slaves in the years before New York outlawed slavery in 1827,
idealized rustic scenes.
and his earliest scenes, made only a few years after the new law,
Mount was one of America’s first important genre painters,
fell prey to benign but servile black caricatures. As his thought
taking as his subject daily life in rural Long Island, where he
matured over the next two decades, Mount’s depictions of race
was born and lived much of his life. While his pictures lack the
took on ever-greater pathos. If the artist cannot be said to have
sophistication of the great genre artists of Europe, from Brueghel
portrayed African Americans as entirely equal to whites, his
to Chardin, they rose entirely out of American soil, capturing
pictures did evince a deepening consciousness of shared humanity
the young county’s simplicity and naiveté. Modern scholars and
and acknowledged the psychological isolation of segregation.
critics also read political and social commentary embedded in the pictures’ charms. Surveying a retrospective exhibition in 1969, New
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In Eel Spearing at Setauket, Mount created, as scholar Karen M. Adams has written, “a black figure of unmitigated dignity.” For
its celebration of the landscape, its mood of tense tranquility, and its interracial and intergenerational themes, the 1845 oil-on-canvas is, in Adams’s words, American art.” The artist noted that the scene was based on his childhood memories of being taught to spearfish by an “old Negro by the name of Hector,” a man who deftly and patiently plied his craft, “with all the philosophy of a Crane.” Mount’s crowning achievement is one of the
Cour tesy Trustees of Reser vations
“perhaps Mount’s most enduring contribution to
gems of the collection at the Fenimore Art Museum
Conservator treats wallpaper in home of poet Bryant
in Cooperstown, New York, which received a grant
This past summer, Leslie Paisley, WACC head paper conservator,
to have the painting returned to near-original luster. WACC head paintings conservator Tom Branchick was well acquainted with the work, having first studied it in 1979 while enrolled at the thenCooperstown Graduate Program in Art Conservation. “I’ve known the painting forever,” said Branchick. The treatment required undoing past conservation that had robbed the picture of numerous small but distinctive painterly details and subtle effects of color and light. “Mount’s presence was obscured. The precision of his draftsmanship had been compromised by earlier fills and inpainting,” Branchick explained. “And the varnish was too thick, all wrong—the picture had gone cloudy.” Branchick removed layers of grime, varnish, and awkward inpainting, slowly cleaning the surface back to Mount’s own pigments and brushstrokes. Before inpainting losses, some from more than fifty years ago, he covered the surface with a “barrier layer” of varnish. This synthetic coating serves not to seal the picture so much as reveal its full chromatic range, as a saturating rain intensifies the colors in a garden. “The barrier layer is the most important layer in a conservation treatment,” Branchick said. “Otherwise, you cannot see the true colors put there by the artist.” The treatment proceeded with inpainting to return fine detail to, for instance, the small rocks and surface ripples near the shallows, and restore color matches in the water and sky. The flat, occluded appearance the painting had worn for decades was replaced with a renewed brilliance and sense of depth. “People can see it now,” said Branchick. “It was extremely satisfying to bring Mount back.” William Sidney Mount, Eel Spearing at Setauket, 1845, after treatment.
completed a two-year project stabilizing the original wallpaper at the Bryant Homestead, home of American poet and editor William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878). The final phase of conservation and reinstallation of the wallpaper in Bryant’s library took place in July. The historic house, in Cummington, Massachusetts, was Bryant’s boyhood home. There he matured as a poet, writing what are considered America’s first great lyric poems. For fifty years, Bryant was editor and publisher of the New York Evening Post, a progressive voice for labor reform, urban greenspace, and abolition. Late in his life, Bryant repurchased the homestead and significantly expanded it, summering there for thirteen years. After his death, the house stayed in the family until it was placed with the Trustees of Reservations, a Massachusetts land trust. The textured gilt wallpaper with flocked border is original to Bryant’s library, where the poet worked on free-verse translations of Homer during his retirement. The library is the one fully original room in the house museum, containing furniture, books, art, and other furnishings as Bryant left them. More than a decade ago, efforts began to preserve the paper, which had badly deteriorated due to the environment and house construction. Forty-nine separate pieces of wallpaper were removed, each piece labeled and documented as to its exact placement. With assistance from a Save America’s Treasures grant from the National Park Service, the pieces were brought to WACC to remove stains, realign tears, and fill and line the paper overall to provide support. As sections were completed, Paisley and historic wallpaper consultant Robert Kelly, of Lee, Massachusetts, studied the previous installation, measured, prepared and lined the walls to accept the paper, and finally reinstalled the lined wallpaper, replacing each piece in its exact location. The reinstallation required additional filling and inpainting by Paisley on-site. In an interview with the Berkshire Eagle, Paisley said the project piqued her imagination about Bryant. “He looked up and saw this exact wallpaper while he was writing,” she said. It is rare to find a nineteenthcentury house with its original wall covering, she noted, making the restoration particularly significant. Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 13
WACC News & Notes
Treatment Report Object: Abraham Lincoln’s Stovepipe Hat
Owner: Hildene: The Lincoln Family Home
Conservators: Gretchen Guidess and Leslie Paisley Description: Man’s black, narrow-brimmed top hat with columnar crown, trimmed with black grosgrain ribbon at base and along brim. Maker’s label inside crown depicts an eagle over a wreath above the inscription, “Siger & Nichols /88 Maiden Lane/New York.” The hat is made from glossy black pile textile that covers a paper card support. The appearance of the textile suggests it is silk, with a looped, uncut pile reminiscent of fur. The textile is seamed diagonally along the rise of the hat and is likely seamed around the top and brim. Hat structure appears to be entirely supported by card stock to form the stovepipe-shaped crown and brim. A leather headband with wire edge is sewn into the interior. The interior is lined with “silked paper,” an open weave silk gauze adhered to a paper backing.
Condition: Fair. The card structure supporting the interior crown is compromised with tears and folds. Some creases are likely a relic of crushing or similar compression. This damage lends the hat a slight crumpled appearance to its exterior.
Treatment: 1. Paper conservator Paisley created a curved support to provide for the hat during repair. 2. The leather inner-band was lifted to gain access to previous mends of the lining and deep creases in the outer structure. 3. Creases were stabilized with heavyweight Japanese paper adhered with wheat-starch paste and copolymer adhesive. 4. Paper repairs were pressed with polyester fabric, blotter paper curved to match inside of hat, and small cloth-covered lead weights. Significant reduction in the creases was achieved but disturbances in the outer fabric layer will always remain. 5. Paper breaks on the inside of the hat were repaired with remoistenable tissue ‘bandages.’ Previous patches of Japanese paper were dampened and removed where possible, to access tears and allow more planar repair, minimizing appearance of the deeper deformations in the hat structure. 6. Areas on the inside of the hat wall lining not easily accessible otherwise were repaired using Japanese paper toned to minimize its appearance. 7. The repaired paper lining was tucked back under the hatband. 8. The areas along the leather hatband were reattached and stabilized with hollow, spine-type repairs using toned Japanese paper, also attaching torn and loose elements where accessible. This stabilization will protect this vulnerable location during future handling. 9. Textile conservator Guidess designed and constructed a clear acrylic mount to protect the hat during storage, display, and travel. Note: Future repairs to the paper lining are possible only as long as the leather band is sufficiently supple to allow manipulation, but as the leather is becoming brittle with age, the window of opportunity for this work is closing. Treatment Report is an editorial feature based on conservators’ reports. Wording may not be verbatim.
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Thomas J. Branchick Director; Conservator of Paintings/Dept. Head Mary Catherine Betz Associate Conservator of Paintings Nate Brulé Office Assistant; Technician John Conzett Office Manager Kristan Goolsby Administrative Assistant; Photographer/Atlanta Hélène Gillette-Woodard Conservator of Objects/Dept. Head Hugh Glover Conservator of Furniture and Wood Objects/Dept. Head Gretchen Guidess Assistant Conservator for Objects and Textiles Matthew Hamilton Photographer Teresa Haskins Accounts Manager Rebecca Johnston Conservator of Paper Henry Klein Conservation Technician Montserrat Le Mense Conservator of Paintings Leslie Paisley Conservator of Paper/Dept. Head Mina Porell Pre-program Intern; Technician/ Atlanta Christine Puza Assistant Conservator of Furniture and Wood Objects Michelle Savant Conservator of Objects/Atlanta Larry Shutts Conservator of Paintings/Atlanta Sandra L. Webber Conservator of Paintings
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Report from Atlanta
Dramatic measures save portrait by the “Artist of the Confederacy” By Graham C. Boettcher The most successful and prolific artist to work in Alabama
Alabama, where he established a portrait studio. Marion was
prior to the Civil War was the German-born portraitist Nicola
known then as the “Athens of the South,” because it was home
Marschall (1829-1917), who catered to the wealthy families of
to three colleges. These included the Marion Female Institute,
Alabama’s “Black Belt,” so named because of the rich black
where Marschall joined the faculty as an instructor of art,
soil that gave rise to the cotton plantations that were the
language, and music. In 1857, Marschall returned to Europe and
state’s mainstay. Marschall is often referred to as the “Artist
studied painting in Düsseldorf, Munich, Rome, and Paris, before
of the Confederacy,” because of a long-held belief that he
returning to Marion in 1859.
designed the Confederacy’s first national flag, as well as its first
This portrait depicts Mary Susan Robbins (1856-1918)—
military uniform, claims that for years have been the subject of
known as Susie—daughter of Selma, Alabama, merchant
discussion and dispute.
John Robbins and his wife Rebecca. One of three portraits
The son of a wealthy tobacco merchant from St. Wendel,
commissioned by the Robbins family (the portrait of Mr. Robbins
Germany, Marschall immigrated to the United States in 1849,
was damaged beyond repair and discarded by the family;
arriving first in New Orleans, then heading to Mobile to live with
while the portrait of Mrs. Robbins is in the collection of the
a relative. By August 1851, Marschall had relocated to Marion,
Birmingham Museum of Art), it was painted immediately after
16 | Art Conservator | Fall 2014
Marschall’s return from Europe,
nearly insoluble polyurethane
and is signed “N. Marschall 1859”
coating. Polyurethane is for sealing
on the apron of the chair in the
floors, not paintings; it is made to
foreground. The portrait is unusual in
be insoluble and walked on. It goes
Marschall’s body of work because he
yellow very quickly and is a terrible
seldom included props or extraneous
saturator. Luckily in this case, the
elements such as furniture.
painting had been varnished with a natural resin beforehand, so the
During the Civil War, Marschall’s artistic skills were employed as chief
floor sealant did not have very
draftsman of maps and fortifications
good adhesion. Larry removed it
for the Second Alabama Regiment
mechanically using adhesive tape,
of Engineers. After the war, he
like getting one’s eyebrows waxed. Since the painting could not be
continued to live in Marion, but
lifted from the fiberboard backing,
the Black Belt, probably because
Larry had to work in reverse by
the region’s post-war economy was
cutting away the board. Using a
devastated. This may have ultimately
table saw with a stacked dado cutter,
occasioned the artist’s 1873 move
he thinned the panel to 1/16-inch
to Louisville, Kentucky, where he
thickness. The remaining board was
remained until his death, establishing
shaved off with planes and chisels,
a lucrative career as portraitist of that
releasing the painted canvas. The
city’s elites. As tastes shifted or families moved away from the Black Belt, many of Marschall’s portraits were stored in the less-than-ideal conditions of basements and attics. The damage sustained in such storage from heat, handling, and mildew might then be exacerbated by do-it-yourself repairs or heavyhanded professional restorations. The Robbins portrait is an exemplar of such misguided treatment. The painting was brought to the Atlanta
Collection of the Birmingham Museum of Art; Gift of Dr. Joseph B. Beaird, Jr. and Family 2006.27
increasingly sought work outside
Art Conservation Center badly torn, overcleaned (including scrubbing the paint away to the ground in the background), badly repainted, and coated with polyurethane. Additionally, it had been glued to 1/4-inch fiberboard (a.k.a.
painting could then be lined with a second layer of canvas, reinforced with a polyester film interleaf. Once stabilized, the portrait underwent extensive inpainting to restore its appearance. The earlier, destructive overcleaning had been done inside the frame, leaving a hidden edge untouched and in original condition; this was used as a color guide for the restoration. To reproduce the background, Larry used a splatter technique with highly dilute retouching paint, flicking the brush over the canvas while protecting the main image with a polyester mask. The conservation treatment was dramatic and labor-intensive, but successfully returned the historic painting to exhibition quality.
Masonite) with a water-based adhesive, which had shrunk the linen canvas, resulting in tenting and paint loss. Treatment by AACC paintings conservator Larry Shutts began with cleaning to remove the extensive repainting and
Graham C. Boettcher, Ph.D. is Chief Curator and The William Cary Hulsey Curator of American Art at the Birmingham Museum of Art. AACC paintings conservator Larry Shutts contributed to this report.
This page, Nicola Marschall’s Portrait of Mary Susan Robbins, 1859, as it arrived at the Atlanta Art Conservation Center, top, and after treatment. Opposite, detail during treatment showing fills prior to inpainting. Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 17
Oldenburg continued from page 8 When asked about comparative examples, we explained nails that held it, unthreaded the blades from the wire, and that Oldenburg made another model for a fan sculpture that set the blades aside to rest and return to whatever shape was is pretty straight up and down, but the finished versions of most natural for them. Removing the blades gave us visual our fan were droopy and hung from the ceiling. Our mount access to the spacer between the blades and the head, which maker said something to the effect of, well, then, what are we discovered was merely the top of a squeeze bottle of glue, you saving? covered in black paint and electrical tape. Yet another instance His point resonated with me. In the field of art history, of Oldenburg using whatever was at hand. we avoid pinning a work’s meaning to an artist’s intention. The new cross-shaped insert contained a small hole in the Poststructuralist theory declared the “author” dead in the middle for the wire to pass through. The insert was covered 1960s, and since then we’ve regarded with great skepticism in black electrical tape to blend in with the rest of the piece. anyone who claims to know what a work is “about” based Between the tape and the metal we placed a layer of PeCap, a on what its artist synthetic woven fabric intended. When faced used as a protective with the material object, barrier. It’s inert, stiff, however, we must set and doesn’t respond to aside such theoretical moisture. Adhesive was ambiguity to deal with applied to this assembly more practical concerns. and it was clamped till In contemporary dry. conservation, you have to Time had come for figure out exactly what it reassembly, but as we is that needs saving, even began to thread the if preserving the work blades back onto the means compromising, wire, we found that in to some degree, the stabilizing and relaxing material object. Concept, them they wanted to for many artists, trumps position themselves construction. differently from their We ended up placing previous arrangement. If Before-treatment photograph, documenting extent of the efflorescence. the blades somewhere we forced the blades into between entirely upright and entirely drooping. Our position the same position they had been previously, they would look was slightly different from the one in which the blades were too upright and not in the spirit of the piece. We consulted a originally adhered, but still allowed them to retain their documentary photo that showed the fan at Oldenburg’s 1969 slightly downward cast. The mount is completely invisible Museum of Modern Art retrospective, which suggested how from the front of the piece. The new metal inserts that we used we might position the blades on the board to make them look to sandwich the blades were supportive enough that we only more as they were originally. As we moved the blades this way and that, I recalled a discussion Hélène, Leslie and I had had at needed the mount to support a single side. In an artist’s statement from 1961, Oldenburg wrote, “I am the beginning of the project. for art that is smoked, like a cigarette, smells, like a pair of Our mount maker had come into the lab and asked about shoes. I am for art that flaps like a flag, or helps blow noses, the project. We discussed how we might stop the blades from like a handkerchief. I am for art that is put on and taken off, slumping forward and how we didn’t know for certain what like pants, which develops holes, like socks, which is eaten, like the piece looked like when Oldenburg had made it. We also a piece of pie.” explained that the piece was a sketch, so it didn’t seem to have Model for Soft Fan isn’t exactly the same as when it was made a great density of intention to begin with—it seemed more like in 1965. But I think Oldenburg would be okay with that. a process piece than something that was fully finished. 18 | Art Conservator | Fall 2014
Tech Notes, Fall 2014
Colormen and their Marks A survey of nineteenth-century European paintings in the Clark Art Institute
By Sandra Webber Conservator of Paintings Comprehensive examinations for the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute’s Nineteenth Century European Paintings catalog provided an opportunity for comparative study of the artists’ preparatory materials and techniques and their suppliers. For this survey, three hundred fifty oil paintings were selected, spanning the decades between 1790 and 1910. Two-thirds of the paintings are French, twenty percent are British, and the remaining are by various European artists, some working in France. About forty percent of the paintings date between 1870 and 1890, and many are quite small, due to Mr. Clark’s preference for small pictures. There were two hundred eight canvas supports, one hundred four wood panels, and thirty-eight other cellulosic supports ranging from paper and cardboards to millboard.1 Commercial purveyors had been manufacturing and selling artist materials and tools since at least the 1700s. The nineteenth century saw the invention and manufacture of many new supplies, including the largest expansion of the artist’s palette in a single century. Some shops specialized in preparing the colors, hand- and machine-grinding the dry pigments into a workable paste, hence their trade name, “colormen.” Commercially prepared paints became more prevalent after collapsible tin tubes were introduced in 1841, allowing for longer storage life. Many shops sold an array of materials besides paints, and a few also focused on manufacturing and preparing the painting supports. These suppliers maintained two addresses, the principle one being their salesroom, with a production workshop located in a second building. The larger firms may have provided smaller shops with such items as factory-primed canvas, which required considerable floor space to produce. These businesses were often passed down in families, with numerous name changes as in-laws took over older shops, companies were bought out, or mergers took place. During this period it was not unusual that the role of the colorman also encompass framing and even specialized restoration services, such as lining. All sixteen of the oils-on-paper in the survey had been lined onto stretched canvases, possibly by colormen, allowing them to be framed as paintings without mats and glazing. Some shops were also picture dealers, providing formal or informal exhibition space, which offered a method of extending credit to working artists. Relationships between individual artists or groups of artists sometimes centered around a particular colorman, especially if his wares had a consistent reputation for quality.2 Most of the materials seen in this survey were purchased in major metropolitan shops, primarily London and Paris. By the mid-nineteenth century London’s colormen were fewer and larger in scale, relying more on marketing and distribution, while many small independent art suppliers could still be found in Paris.3 By the early twentieth century, several large firms had emerged in England and France, a few of which are still in the business of making artist colors. The English firm of Winsor and Newton, established in 1832, still maintains Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 19
Tech Notes, Fall 2014
a worldwide reputation for quality goods, as does the merged French company Lefranc and Bourgeois, which originated as a small shop in 1773.4 These companies sometimes marked the backs of their prepared supports, usually with a black stamp or stencil, displaying their name and address, and occasionally their available wares and services (Fig. 1). Most stamps were about 3-by-5 inches in size and often oval in shape, with the address and wares in smaller type surrounding the colorman’s name. A few later stamps, such as Hardy-Alan’s, appeared in the shape of an artist’s palette and English colormen sometimes used printed-paper labels. Rarely the marks took other forms such as the small brand used by the Italian panel maker Giosi. A total of fifty-three supplier’s marks were recorded in the survey; twenty-four on canvases, twenty-five on wood panels, and four on the remaining supports. The central placement of most canvas stamps suggests that they were applied after the primed fabric had been stretched, probably by the shop selling the end product. However, some stamps may also reflect the actual preparer, a colorman with enough workshop space to size and ground rolls of fabric.5 Canvas had begun its use as an acceptable oil painting support during the fifteenth century and had overtaken wood as the favorite support by the second quarter of the seventeenth century. Artists from the early decades of the nineteenth century were using coarser, more open weave fabrics that they were often priming themselves. After 1840 the linens became finer and tighter in weave with the introduction of power looms, and most artists bought their canvases already primed and stretched, just as they do today. Various ground colors, opacities, and surface textures were available on the commercially prepared supports, with the majority being oilbased. About half of the surveyed canvases had the most commonly seen off-white ground color. Among the artists using other ground colors, John Constable was notable for his consistent use of various shades of pink. Considering that seventy percent of the two hundred eight canvases are lined, there are probably a considerable number of additional stamps hidden from view. Wood panels prepared by specialized workshops 20 | Art Conservator | Fall 2014
Na me of Suppl ier
C l a r k Pa i n t i n g
—APRIN 43 Rue de (--val) Paris, (pein)dres & Toiles
Jean Beraud, Seaside Café, 1884, canvas with an unusual original stretcher design. accompanied by a second partial stamp “chass---erges”, probably the stretcher maker
(oval stamp on stretcher) [colors and canvas]
B or R (on a white paper label) The letter, buried under the white paint daub, likely indicates one initial of the supplier.
Camille Pissarro, The Artist’s Palette with a Landscape, 1878-80, rectangular mahogany palette with thumb hole.
?--& PERE Rue---- 8, Paris tableaux (large stamp)
Jean-Louis Forain, Walk in the Sun, 1880-83, mahogany panel.
ALEXANDRE 146 Avenue de Neuilly bis (Seine) Paris brosserie et plumeaux coulours fines et vernis toiles a peindre encaderments (stamp) [colors, varnishes, canvas, brushes, frames]
Francisco Domingo y Margués, Drinking Song, 1890, mahogany panel.
BELOT No 3 Rue de L’Arbre Sec Paris (Oval stamp) [manufacturer and seller of varnish and colors at this address until 1834]
Pierre Joseph, Redouté Flowers, 1820, canvas.
P. CONTET 34 Rue Lafayette Paris (Stamp)
Camille Pissarro, Port of Rouen: Unloading Wood, 1898, canvas. Also a large “33” stamp. Camille Pissarro, Le Pont Neuf, 1902, canvas.
(1se?) CORNU 13 Rue Laffitte Paris
Constant Troyon, Going to Market on a Misty Morning, 1851, mahogany panel. stamped across cradle bars
[possibly a dealer]
[colorman, framer, dealer, at this address 1887-? [Contet took over Latouche’s shop]
Tableaux dessin (stamp) [colorman, art dealer or restorer?] DEFORGE 8 Boulevard Montmartre, Ateliér Rue Clichy No 7 Paris (Stamp) [Bertrand Deforge, Manufacturer & seller of varnish &
Narcisse Virgile Diaz de la Pena, Two Great Oaks, 1854, canvas.
DEFORGE-CARPENTIERS 8 Boulevard Montmartre, Atelier Rue
Camille Pissarro, Road de Versailles, Louveciennes, 1870, canvas. Carolus-Duran, Spanish Woman, 1876, mahogany panel.
colors, seller of curiosities, at this address 1841-1857.]
Clichy 7 Paris (stamp) [Marie-Charles-Edouard. Manufacturers and sellers of colors, painting dealers, framer, under this stamp at this address from 1858-1869]
(Batignolles from 1868) Paris (large oval stamp) [maker and seller of colors, canvas under this name at this address 1866-69]
Paul Seignac, The Sick Child, 1870-76, mahogany panel. Eduardo Zamacois y Zabala, Platonic Love, 1870, mahogany panel. Also stamp for Beugniet 10 Rue Laffitte Paris (frame maker, dealer, restorer. Print publisher) at this address 1851-1891)
DEFORGE-CARPENTIERS, 6 Rue Halevy, Atelier (62) rue Legendre (Batignolles) Paris Couleurs fines et toiles peindre (Large
Alphonse de Neuville, Champigny 2 Dec. 1870, 1875-77, mahogany panel.
PAUL DENIS succr Maison Merlin 10 Rue de Médicis Paris
Olivier de Penne, Hunting Hounds, 1850-97, mahogany panel. (large oval stamp) Olivier de Penne, Two Pointers, 1850-97, canvas. (large oval stamp) Olivier de Penne, End of the Hunt, 1850-97, oak panel. (small brand impressed into end grain)
DEFORGE-CARPENTIERS 8 Montmartre, Atelier 62 Rue Legendre
oval stamp) [Colors, wood-gilding, framer, painting dealer, restorer, at this location from 1871-1879]
Fabrique de coloueurs, toiles, articles de dessin. (stamps and brands) [manufacturer and seller of colors, canvas, drawing materials]
DUBUS 60 Blvd Malesherbes Paris Couleurs Fine toiles & Peindre..tableaux & Restauration (stamp) [Seller of colors, canvas,
Gustave Caillebotte, Seine at Argentueil, 1892, canvas.
E.DUPRÉ ---- Paris (Stamp)
Daniel Hernandez, The Model, 1900, canvas. (Accompanied by a smaller stamp “Modele Depose B” on stretcher from Bourgeois Aine, 1870s-1890s.
DURAND (Paris?) Brosses, Pinceau, Etoiles et Coulours (Oval
stamp) [Seller of brushes, pencils (small brushes), canvas, colors]
Daniel Hernandez, Woman in the Bois de Boulogne, 1885, canvas. (Accompanied by smaller stamp “Modele Depose B” on stretcher)
F (stamp) [colorman? possibly Foinet? see below]
Daniel Hernandez, Pierrette, 1878, mahogany panel.
FG 415 (stamp) [Unknown if colorman]
Eugene Isabey, Landing Stage on the Jetty, 1860, mahogany panel.
PAUL FOINET (van Eyck) 54 Rue N.D. des Champs Paris toiles & couleurs fines (stamp)
Carolus-Duran, The Artist’s Gardener, 1893, canvas.
A. Garcia (impressed mark) [Spanish photographer]
Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, Beach at Valencia, 1904, portion of a standard grey cardboard photo mount.
GIOSI, Roma (Branded into wood)
Jose Garcia y Ramos, Inside the Bullring, Seville, c. 1880, hardwood panel
G & C (oval stamp with numerals) (panel maker, colorman, or dealer?)
Jean-Francois Millet, Young Girl Guarding Her Sheep, 1862, oak panel. Accompanied by numerals “9506” Lucius Rossi, Woman Reading, 1875, mahogany panel. Accompanied by numerals “10014”
dealer?, and restoration services]
[seller of colors, canvas]
(panel maker or colorman)
Na me of Suppl ier
C l a r k Pa i n t i n g
HARDY-ALAN 56 Rue de Cherche Midi Paris (Dorure
Pierre Bonnard, Women with Dog, 1891, canvas. (partial stamp on stretcher) Victoria Dubourg, Roses, 1875-1900, canvas. (large canvas stamp accompanied by “6” (portrait size), stretcher also marked “dorure encadrements”.) Also dealer stamp: F. & J. Tempelaere 70 Blvd Malesherbes Paris. Henri Fantin-Latour, Bowl of Roses on a Marble Table, 1885, canvas. (large palette-shaped stamp applied before stretching: may indicate the canvas preparer) Also dealer stamp: F. & J. Tempelaere 70 Blvd Malesherbes, Paris. Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Jacques Fray, 1904, canvas. (stamp on stretcher) Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Self Portrait, 1899, canvas. (canvas stamp)
encadrements), (sometimes a very large palette shaped stamp) [Framer, gilder, colorman, canvas preparer?, at this address by the dated paintings, from at least 1889-1904] [There was an E. Hardy & G.Milori colorshop first at 261-263 rue du Paradis from 1861-1889, then at 16 tur Bourg-Tibourg until at least 1899]
LATOUCHE 34 Rue de Lafayette (Paris) toiles-encadrements (Stamp) [colors, frames, art dealer at this address 1870 -1886.]
Ferdinand Heilbuth, A Lady with Flowers, 1875-80, mahogany panel.
LUNIOT GANNE panneaux de chene Pre Oté a Barbizon) (oval surround on stamp) [Victoire Ganne & Joseph-Bernard Luniot, (oak) panel makers?, also owners of a hostel in Barbizon area
Charles Emile Jacque, Interior, 1852, oak panel. Also dealer stamp: F. & J. Tempelaere 70 Blvd Malesherbes Paris. Jean Francois Millet, The Knitting Lesson, 1860, oak panel.
MOIRINAT 484? Faubourg St Honore Paris (Stamp)
Jules Breton, Jeanne Calvet, 1865, millboard.
2 MULLER, Paris (red stencil) [colorman or dealer]
Jules Breton, Jeanne Calvet, 1865, millboard.
NEWMAN, Soho Square London (round stamp with Newman crest) [James Newman & Co., 17 Gerrard St Soho London, manufacturer of colors, pencils and brushes, seller of supports, from 1785-1936, when merged with Reeves]
John Constable, Sketch of the Opening of Waterloo Bridge, 1829, canvas fragment.
Ange OTTOZ 2 Rue de la Michodière Paris (Stamp) [manufacturer
Johan Barthold, Jongkind Frigates, 1855-60, canvas. Also stamp for dealer Gustave Tempelaere 23 Rue Laffitte Paris.
and seller of colors and varnishes at this address 1827-1856, and with workshop at 11 rue Helder from 1857-1869] Alexis OTTOZ 46 Rue Notre-Dame-de-Lorette Paris Coulours Fines Etoiles --- - & tableaux (arch-shaped stamp) [colors, canvas,
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Tama, the Japanese Dog, c. 1876, canvas. Also stamped “8”, (portrait size).
paintings dealer, restorer, at this address 1867-1874]
(Stamp) [color maker and seller, at this address 1862-1870]
Hilaire Germain Edgar Degas, Portrait of a Man, c.1875-80, canvas.
REY et CIE 51 Rue de Larochefoucauld, 64 Rue Notre-Damede-Lorette Paris (stamp) [seller of colors and possibly canvas, at this
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Woman with a Fan, 1879, canvas. (primed reverse of canvas suggests colorman preparation)
REY-PERROD 51 Rue de Larochefoucauld, 64 Rue Notre-Dame
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Marie-Therese Durand-Ruel Sewing, 1882, canvas.
Jerome OTTOZ 22 Rue Labruyère, Paris Md de Couleurs Fines
Paris-de-Lorette, (stamp) seller of colors, painting restorer. At this address c. 1882-c. 1885. CHARLES ROBERSON AND CO. 99 Longacre Road London, manufacturer of water and oil colors materials for drawing & painting [In business from 1819 to 1975]
William Fettes Douglas, Women in Church, 1860s, composition board. (Stamp) Emile Friant, Madame Seymour, 1889, mahogany panel. (stamped paper label)
ROWNEY MANUFACTURERS, London (stamp) [in business since 1783, merged with Daler in 1983]
Frederick Goodall, Mother and Children (The Picnic), 1851, mahogany panel.
ROWNEY AND CO. (impressed brand)
Adolphe-Charles-Eduardo Steinhall, The Bibliophile, 1890, mahogany panel.
P. THOMINET Cousin Freres Succr 100 Avenue Victor Hugo Paris Toiles à peindre et colours fines (stamp) [Colors, canvas]
Pierre-Georges Jeanniot, The Coming Storm, 1905, canvas. Accompanied by a stamp from the framer L. Prevotés, 167 Rue de Pompe, Paris.
VIEILLE 26 rue Breda Paris Md de Couleurs Re-entoile et Restaure les Tableaux (stamp) [H. Vieille. manufacturer and seller
Alfred Stevens, Woman in White, 1872, laminate cardboard . (stamp reads 30 rue Breda)
of colors, relining and restoration, at this address 1865-1872] VIEILLE 35 rue Laval Paris Md de Couleurs entoile et restaure les tableax (oval stamp)
[H. Vieille, son-in-law and successor to Ferrod, maker and seller of colors, canvas, restoration at this address 1873-1878]
H. VIEILLE & E. TROISGROS rue de Lavel 35 (Paris) colours. toiles, panneaux (palette shaped stamp) [Sold colors, panels & canvas,
under these names at this address from 1879-1883]
Alphonse de Neuville, Grenadier, 1875-76, mahogany panel. Also stamp of Beugniet 10 Rue Lafitte Paris, (frame maker, restorer, dealer, print publisher) Alfred Stevens, Mother and Child, 1875-80, mahogany panel. Alfred Stevens, Fall (one of 4 seasons), 1877, canvas. (seen during relining) Giovanni Boldini, Madame Celine Leclanche, 1881, canvas.
continued in use by artists well into the nineteenth century, and were especially favored by the Barbizon painters.6 Panels were also particularly desirable for small, detailed cabinet paintings, such as those by Meissonier, as ground applications could be finished to a smoother surface than on canvas. Of the one hundred four wood panels surveyed, sixty-six were visually identified as mahogany, a more dimensionally stable wood than temperate climate species, due to the continuous tropical growing season. Although the majority of mahogany panels (sixty-one percent) were used by artists working in Paris, the earliest mahogany support in the Clark collection is a small John Constable from 1821.7 The mahogany panels also fell most often into the standardized sizes, suggesting mahogany may have been the wood favored by panel-making workshops in the second half of the century. While most of the surveyed panels had some type of ground layer, thirteen mahogany supports had no priming, with the warm wood color often used as part of the composition. Most commercially prepared panels had chamfers cut on all four reverse edges, varying in width from 1/4- to 3/4-inch, and the backs were factory coated with varnish or a red-brown or gray paint or stain. Among the painters who employed wooden supports, Boldini, Forain, Goupil, de Jonge, Seignac, and Stevens seemed to have preferred mahogany. All four Millet paintings were done on oak panels, one stamped G & C, and another marked Luniot Ganne, the name of a fabricator and supplier in the Barbizon area. Three dePenne paintings all bear the same Paul Denis colorman’s mark, although they include one mahogany and one oak panel, and a canvas. It is also fair to assume that several wood panels have had their stamps removed during major restorations. About twenty percent of the panels had been thinned and either backed with a secondary panel and/ or cradled as part of a restoration. A few cradles were installed as part of the original commercial production as a built-in protection against warping.8 The backs of the supports might also be marked with a black numeral designating a Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 21
Tech Notes, Fall 2014
standard size. Thirteen of the paintings in this survey had such numbers, although not all accompanied a colorman’s shop stamp. French and English supports had been sold for many years in a number of standardized proportions and sizes. For example, the popular English portrait dimensions were known by names, such as the 30-by-25-inch bust length, the 36-by-28-inch “Kit-Kat” (a portrait including the hands but less than halflength), and the 50-by-40-inch half-length. The French sold their supports in three categories with a common height measurement and different widths designated for three painting genres, portrait, landscape, and marine. The distribution of surveyed pictures on standard French sizes suggests the portrait widths were the most popular, regardless of subject. The French centimeter measurements were often close to an English equivalent, for example the French portrait size #25 was similar to the English 30-by-25-inch bust length, suggesting the standards may have been universal.9 Many of these proportions are still commercially prepared and employed by artists today. Many colormen’s addresses and marks are datable due to business directories and historical reference publications. This can be of use in placing an undated painting into the right period of an artist’s body of work. The accompanying appendix cites the artists and paintings found with each listed supplier’s mark. In the listing, the bold type indicates the actual text of the colorman mark recorded during the survey. With so many French paintings in the collection, it is not surprising that most of the stamps cite Parisian establishments. 1. Data collected and analyzed by the author. Robert Sterling Clark Day Diaries 1919-1945, 3 transcribed volumes, Clark Art Institute Curatorial Dept. 2. Stéphanie Constantin, “The Barbizon Painters: A Guide to their Suppliers”, Studies in Conservation, Vol 46, (IIC, London (2001), 49-56. Iris Shaefer, Caroline von SaintGeorge and Katja Lewerentz, Painting Light: The Hidden Techniques of the Impressionists, (Skira, Milan, 2008), p. 47-48, 65-66. 3. On a London map dated 1791, about ten colorman shop locations were cited, some not surviving far into the nineteenth century. Those that did survive consolidated and merged to form a handful of firms, some of which are still in business. By contrast, a Paris directory for 1850 listed two hundred seventy-six paint dealers, and later in the century there were still many small colorman shops in business. Don Pavey, with Peter J. Staples, The Colormen’s Story, (Rickett and Colman Leisure Ltd, Whealdstone, 1984), p. 27. Schaefer, et al, 1 Painting Light, p 43. Constantin, “Barbizon Painters Suppliers”, p. 49-56. 4. Constantin, The Barbizon Painters: Suppliers. Pavey, The Colormen’s Story, p.18. 5. Alexander W. Katlan, American Artists’ Materials Vol II: A Guide to Stretchers, Panels, Millboards, and Stencil Marks, (Sound View Press, Madison CT, 1992), p. 296. Schaefer, et al, Painting Light, p 45. 6. Schaefer, et al, Painting Light, .p 53. 7. The wood identifications were made by the author, with the assistance of Hugh Glover of Williamstown Art Conservation Center’s Furniture Department, and Alexander Carlisle, formerly of the same department. 8. Mahogany panels in the late nineteenth century could be purchased unprimed, primed, or cradled from Bourgeios Ainé., for example. Schaefer, et al, Painting Light, p. 53-55. 9. Winsor and Newton 1853 advertisement, in Henry Mogford, Instructions for Cleaning, Repairing, Lining and Restoring Oil Paintings, (Schultze and Co for Winsor and Newton, London, 1853), appendix pp 2-3. Kurt Wehlte, The Materials and Techniques of Painting, translated by Ursus Dix, (van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 1982), p. 344-45. Addresses and colormen information: S. Constantin “The Barbizon Painters: A Guide to Their Suppliers”, Studies in Conservation, 46 (2001) 49-67. Sally A. Woodcock, “The Roberson Archive: Content and Significance,” Historical Painting Techniques, Materials, and Studio Practice, University of Leiden, Netherlands, 1995, publisher: Getty Conservation Institute. Peter J. Staples, The Artist’s Colorman’s Story, Rechitt Colman Leisure Ltd, London, 1984.
Part one of a two-part series. Next: Underdrawings.
Sandra Webber has been a paintings conservator with the Williamstown Art Conservation Center for more than thirty-four years. From 2001 to 2012, she worked with a team of art historians on the two-volume Catalog of Nineteenth Century European Paintings in the Clark Art Institute (Yale, 2013). Every painting was thoroughly examined from the support to the varnish, using ultraviolet light, infrared reflectography, microscopy, and, where necessary, X-radiography. Her technical reports, which accompany each of the three hundred sixty-six oil painting catalog entries, were the basis for the data compiled and analyzed in this article.
22 | Art Conservator | Fall 2014
Members of the Consortium
Williamstown Art Conservation Center
Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, —Hartford, CT
227 South Street, Williamstown,
Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art,
Cornell University —Ithaca, NY
Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy —Andover, MA Albany Institute of History & Art —Albany, NY Alice T. Miner Colonial Collection —Chazy, NY The Arkell Museum —Canajoharie, NY Arnot Art Museum —Elmira, NY Art Complex Museum —Duxbury, MA Bennington Museum —Bennington, VT Berkshire Museum —Pittsfield, MA Bowdoin College Museum of Art —Brunswick, ME
Historic Deerfield, Inc. —Deerfield, MA Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College —Hanover, NH The Hyde Collection —Glens Falls, NY The Lawrenceville School —Lawrenceville, NJ
—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
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 Farnesworth Art Museum —Rockland, ME
Springfield Library and Museums Association Sterling and Francine Clark Art
—Ogdensburg, NY Gershon Benjamin Foundation, —Clayton, GA
respect to the care and conservation of works of art and objects of cultural interest; to participate in the
training of conservators; to promote
the importance of conservation
and increase the awareness of
Vermont Historical Society —Montpelier, VT
the issues pertinent to collections
Vermont Museum and Gallery
care; and to conduct research and
disseminate knowledge to advance
—Shelburne, VT Williams College Museum of Art
—Utica, NY Museum of Connecticut History —Hartford, CT Neuberger Museum,
Atlanta Art Conservation Center
Purchase College, State University
6000 Peachtree Road
of New York
Atlanta, GA 30341
—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
Alabama Historical Commission —Montgomery, AL Booth Western Art Museum —Cartersville, GA Brenau University —Gainesville, GA Columbia Museum of Art —Columbia, SC The Columbus Museum —Columbus, GA
corporations and individuals; to conduct educational programs with
High Museum of Art
Frederic Remington Art Museum
other nonprofit organizations,
Picker Art Gallery,
Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center,
and related conservation services for member institutions, and for
of our cultural heritage; to provide examination, treatment, consultation
—Cooperstown, NY —Ticonderoga, NY
conserve and maintain the objects
Smith College Museum of Art,
Fenimore Art Museum Fort Ticonderoga
he mission of the Williamstown Art Conservation Center, a
nonprofit institution, is to protect,
University of New York
Roland Gibson Gallery, State
Manchester Historical Society
Suzy Frelinghuysen and George L.K.
The Cheney Homestead of the
Mead Art Museum,
Charles P. Russell Gallery, —Deerfield, MA
The Rockwell Museum of
—Hamilton, NY Portland Museum of Art —Portland, ME Preservation Society of Newport County —Newport, RI Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art —Providence, RI
—Atlanta, GA Mason-Scharfenstein Museum of Art —Demorest, GA Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts —Montgomery, AL Morris Museum of Art —Augusta, GA Telfair Museum of Art —Savannah, GA
Williamstown Art Conservation Center | 23
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