Come visit us at our new studio at 196 West 29th Suite B Holland, Michigan. We’re a high quality restoration studio providing services for artwork, furniture, and other treasured objects. We also produce museum-quality custom frames. Please call us for an appointment.

Member American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works.

Pair of Copper Plates by William Aiken Walker

These two great pieces of Americana are oil paintings done on copper plates by the artist William Aiken Walker (1839 – 1921). Copper has always been a great preserver of oil paint, and we’re glad to say that the foundational aspects for these two works are rather good. It’s likely that they have never been varnished and, as you can imagine, they are quite covered with surface contaminates. And due to the nature of copper and how it can corrode when contacted with cleaning solvents, we’ll have to be gentle in our approach and use a gel system. We can’t wait to see the natural colors and the clarity of the details that are already quite impressive. Stay tuned for more…

William Aiken Walker (1839-1921) was an American artist who was born to an Irish Protestant father and a mother of South Carolina background in Charleston, South Carolina in 1839.  In 1842, when his father died, Walker’s mother moved the family to Baltimore, Maryland, where they remained until returning to Charleston in 1848.

In 1861, during the American Civil War, Walker enlisted in the Confederate army and served under General Wade Hampton in the Hampton’s Legion.  He was wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines (1862).  After recuperating, he was transferred back to Charleston, where he was assigned picket duty, which gave him time to paint.  For the next two years, he made maps and drawings of Charleston’s defenses.  He was separated from the military at the end of 1864.  After the Civil War, Walker moved to Baltimore, where he produced small paintings of the “Old South” to sell as tourist souvenirs.

He is best known for his paintings depicting the lives of poor black emancipated slaves, especially sharecroppers in the post-Reconstruction American South.  Two of his paintings were reproduced by Currier and Ives as chromolithographs.

Walker continued painting until his death on January 3, 1921 in Charleston, where he is buried in the family plot at Magnolia Cemetery.

Japanese Doll

This Japanese doll suffered from sun damage that had really effected the red colors making them a lighter shade. Adhering the kimono to the doll were pins, and to the pedestal were nails. There was also a stain on the pedestal.

The first approach to strengthen the color of the red fabric was less invasive and used dyes, but after tests it was determined this was not going to give the desired result. Period Japanese silk that was used for kimonos was then ordered from Japan. From the waist up all of the red fabric was replaced, and at the the bottom, where the kimono was attached to the pedestal by nails, it was determined that nail removal would be more damaging to the kimono than the fabric replacement, and therefore the original fabric was left.

The stain on the pedestal was tested with numerous solutions of different strengths. Unfortunately none of these was more effective than being able to lighten the color of the stain. In-painting was then used in the area to conceal the presence.

Albrecht Durer Woodcut of Samson Rending the Lion

This woodcut print by Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) is one of the older works to have come into the studio. But considering its age, the work is in fairly good shape. Along the left there are some rust stains. The top region has a number of holes courtesy a few hungry insects. General brown discoloration is due to acid stains. And the paper was split in the middle.

A water bath was used to help coax the print from its mount, which was a very delicate process. Fortunately, both the print and the backing were of good paper quality, and the adhesive that had been used appears to have been either rice paste or wheat paste. Both are conservation friendly as they’re pH neutral, non-acidic, and are reversible in water.

A second water bath was used to help lift the acid stains even more. Rice paper was used like a barge to give greater control over the submersion, and to support the print when it needed to be lifted from the water. The heat press helps dry and flatten the print.

The Met has the original woodcut for Samson Rending the Lion and they have a wonderful writeup: “Dürer elevated the medium of woodcut to an unprecedented level of technical virtuosity. In Samson Rending the Lion, he achieved striking pictorial effects that vie with those created in contemporary engravings. Remarkable gradations of tone were realized in the lion’s mane—all the more amazing if one considers that each tapered black line in the print was formed in the woodblock by chipping away the wood on either side of the intended line. Such expert and self-assured handling is particularly characteristic of Dürer’s early woodcuts, dating to the 1490s. A print engraved about twenty years earlier by Israel van Meckenem served as the source for Dürer’s powerful depiction of the Old Testament hero who, “suddenly seized” by the spirit of God, “tore the lion to pieces as if it were a kid” (Judges 14:6). The weaponless Samson is here shown on the lion’s back, one foot pressed into its neck as he forces open its mouth.”

Albrecht Durer was born in Nuremberg, Germany on May 21, 1471, the second of eighteen children in the family of a master goldsmith. Fifteen of the children died at an early age and Durer’s mother was often sick, especially in the last years of her life. Although his father was not pleased with his artistic ambitions, at the age of fifteen, Durer was apprenticed to a painter.

Durer is arguable the greatest artist in German history. By adopting the new forms of the Italian quattrocento and connecting them to the already robust tradition of the German print, he almost single-handedly provoked the Northern Renaissance. He had an insatiably inquisitive mind and this led him to be an avid travel, which he started in 1490 before he was nineteen. Up to this time he had spent a four year apprenticeship with master painter and engraver, Michael Wolgemut. He then went to Colmar, France to work under Martin Schongauer, but it took him two years to reach Colmar, and by then Schongauer was dead. His wanderings across Europe included two trips to Venice that were capped  by a year-long sojourn in The Netherlands, where he was a celebrity among celebrities.

In moving from Nuremberg to Venice, Durer reversed a whole direction of cultural priorities. The center to which German artists had previously looked were Bruges and Ghent in Flanders, along with the northern Gothic style shaped there by artists like the Van Eycks and Hugo van der Goes. What fascinated Durer was Italian humanism and all that flowed from the discovery of classical antiquity.

Durer married Agnes Frey in 1494, and in the same year made his first visit to Venice. He would return there in 1505 and stay for two years. Meanwhile he built a great house which still stands on the castle hill in Nuremberg. Durer was a rather indifferent and rude husbands. On his own he took his wife’s dowry and setup a graphics workshop, the products of which his wife was tasked with sitting at the markets and fairs and trying to sell them. He seldom traveled with her and many years later, when he did take her on a trip to the Netherlands, he allowed her to accompany him to only one of the many banquets given in his honor. When they did stay at home, she was left upstairs to eat with the maid.

The success of Durer’s work led the way for other German artists, Matthias Grunewald, Albrecht Altdorfer, Hans Holbein the Younger and Martin Luther’s great friend, Lucas Cranach, all of whose work made Germany for half a century the leader of the Northern Renaissance.

 

Tiger Stadium Peanut Vendor Apron

This is an apron from Tiger Stadium believed to have been worn by peanut vendors. Grease stains were along the front and part of the embroidery had been lost. We cleaned the apron and re-stitched some of lettering to match the original. Vintage postcards from Tiger Stadium were placed with the apron in a new maple shadow box frame with a fabric mount.

Art Installation

New artwork installed at a client’s home. We just wanted to highlight this service as it’s something that can be more complex than you’d think. And it’s something we have a great deal of experience with, and we’ve even mastered the ability to do it over stairs.

The square artwork is by Jacob Hashimito (1973-) and the the round artwork is a woven wooden circular and the artist is unknown.

The Cabinet du Roi: “Ceiling of the Great Staircase of the Palace Versailles”

At the Palace of Versailles, The Great Stair, also called the Abassador’s Staircase, was built in 1674-1679 to provide a ceremonial access to the king’s state apartment. Its walls and ceiling were lavishly decorated under the supervision of Charles Le Brun. Polychrome marble, gilt bronzes, and paintings all lit by its glass roof were some of its features. The decor celebrated the victory of the king in the Dutch War (1672-1678) and, on the landing, several illusionistic paintings celebrated the military glory of Louis XIV. Unfortunately, in 1752, to renovate in favor of additional apartments for Louis XV’s daughters, The Great Stair was destroyed. Only one painted panel escaped destruction, but a complete visual record in black and white exists thanks to more than thirty large and intricate prints created between 1679 and 1725.

Coinciding with the construction, an extravagant publishing project was undertaken that would become known as the Cabinet du Roi (King’s Cabinet). Colbert, the kings Minister of Finances, supervised the project collecting the best French printmakers to produce hundreds of large and detailed engravings of the royal collections and accomplishments. Beginning in 1670, some of these print series were combined with descriptive texts and published as books, while others remained without text and were bound and distributed as needed.

This copy of The Cabinet du Roi is believed to have been made around 1710. It does contain a number of expected maladies: staining, fungal invasions, and fingerprints. However, the paper quality is phenomenal and it will clean up exceptionally well. The book totals about 90 pages, of which 22 two-page spreads contain prints. A number of these are in shapes that fit together, comprising an outer circle with a central image. The plan is to deconstruct the book, restore the pages, and create a box frame to showcase the entire production. A reproduction of the shaped images fitted into place will be produced separately and presented as its own image.

ERNEST DREYFUSS STILL LIFE WITH MANDOLIN FINISHED AND FRAMED

Delamination issues caused large portions of paint to lift from the canvas of this still life by Ernest Dreyfuss (1903-1977). By a process of restorer’s adhesive and weights, we were able to delicately return these areas to the canvas. New linen was added to the reverse to provide a stronger foundation, which is going to help the delamination issue. The original varnish was old and it had yellowed. With it removed the natural and more vibrant colors reappeared, and a new layer of conservation varnish was applied.

A custom American Modernist Reverse frame was made with Spanish origins and gilded with silver.

Ernst Emmanuel Dreyfuss was born in Frankfurt, Germany on January 1, 1903. He trained as a painter and became a disciple of Max Beckmann and Ugi Battenberg. Dreyfuss survived Buchenwald and fled from Nazi Germany in 1940, spending a year in England, and then immigrating to the US in 1941. He settled in Hyde Park, Chicago, IL, where, as an eccentric neighborhood painter, he allegedly served as the inspiration for a character in one of Saul Bellow’s Chicago Stories. Dreyfuss ceased painting in 1971. He married and subsequently divorced Ms. Anne Battaglia, and was survived by one cousin, which at the time of his death in 1977 resided in South Africa.

Jacobsen B.W. Morse Maritime Painting

This is a maritime painting of the B.W. Morse by Antonio Jacobsen (1850-1921). As you can see from the photographs it has been through some rough times. About 13 major tears trouble its surface with an additional 9 minor tears. Scotch tape is adding some support on the reverse, and the surface is quite dirty. Most peculiar is the fact that nails were driven from the front of the frame, through the painting, and into the stretcher bar; a few actually stick out on the reverse. This was done shortly after the painting was made, and in that time some of the glue from the frame and solvents from the painting lodged in that area where the painting and the back of the frame were pressed against each other, and made a rather tight seal. With diligent nail removal and careful releasing of the canvas from the frame we were able to de-fit the painting. Initial cleaning tests have had remarkable results. Once that step is complete, the next thing will be to suture the tears. Stay tuned for more…

Antonio Jacobsen was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, on November 2, 1850 to a family of violin makers. At an early age he enrolled at the Royal Academy of Design in Copenhagen, and studied until his family’s money ran out. At the age 18 it was compulsory for him to join the Danish military forces, but he escaped and sailed for America.

Praised for his freelance sketchwork the Marvin Safe Company commissioned him to decorate their safes. This work transitioned into commissions from sea captains and shipowners, and then into Steamship companies that wanted to record their fleet.

In 1880, he and his family moved to Hoboken, New Jersey. Jacobsen’s work was strongly desired during his lifetime and it’s estimated that he executed some 6,000 paintings. His works can be seen in most major collections of maritime art including the: Peabody Museum, Salem, MA.; The Mariners Museum, Newport News, VA.; Seaman’s Bank for Savings, etc. He died in 1921.

TC Steele Landscape Restoration

Due to paint stability issues, this TC Steele (1847 – 1926) was re-lined with wax. This caused a number of problems on its own that were detailed in our initial assessment.

With the painting de-fit we were able to undertake the arduous journey of removing the wax re-line with gentle heat and a sharp scalpel. On the front, the surface was carefully cleaned, with the old varnish removed along with the dirt contaminates and the black dots. With the amount of heat used in the wax-reline process, some of the paint was flattened which compromised the rich texture–one of the strong points of this painting. We reconstituted these areas, matching the original brushstrokes, and then injected adhesive to consolidate the cupping areas. Heat and pressure allowed them to lay flat and consistent with the rest of the paint film. Old in-painting was removed and new in-painting was performed to correct these areas, the areas with craquelures and cupping, and the areas with loss once they were in-filled. Conservation varnish finished the restoration.

The new frame is a custom American Impressionist 424 styled frame with hand-carved panel, rounded corners and herringbone detail along the corners and outer railings. It was gilded with 22 karat gold. We hope to have all the finishing touches done for Thursday, so check back for finishing shots…

Theodore Clement Steele is considered to be one of the finest of the American Impressionist painters to work in the Midwest. A leading member of the Hoosier School painters, Steele was a native in Indiana who studied at the Indiana School of Art, as well as the Royal Academy in Munich. Upon returning to the U.S., Steele co-founded the Indianapolis School of Art with William Forsyth. In these early years, Steele’s paintings were very much in the dark, dramatic style of the Munich School. It was only after Steele began exploring the Indiana countryside for inspiration that his palette would brighten. By 1893, Steele was showing, to critical acclaim, Impressionist landscapes at the Chicago Exposition. In 1906 Steele settled in the remote region of Brown County, Indiana, where he painted exclusively in the pure Impressionist style he’d adopted.