Come visit us in Hamilton, 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.

Special thanks to Kallie Walker Photography // kalliewalker.com

Icon of St. Nicholas

It started with the Council of Nicaea, when a group of over 300 Catholic bishops debated the nature of the Holy Trinity. Arius took the position that Jesus the Son was not equal to God the Father. It took a lengthy explanation for Arius to do this, and while Nicholas listened he grew in anger. As legend has it, once he had had enough, Nicholas stood up, walked across the room, and smacked Arius. Emperor Constantine had called for the Council of Nicaea, and at the time it was illegal for anyone hit another person in his presence, but he allowed the bishops to decide on Nicolas’ punishment. This became jail time. During the night, an ashamed Nicholas saw Jesus and Mary the Mother. They asked him, “Why are you in jail?” “Because of my love for you,” responded Nicholas. It’s then reported that Jesus gave Nicholas the Book of the Gospels, and Mary gave an omophorion so Nicholas could again be dressed as a bishop. The next morning the jailers found a content Nicholas in bishop’s robes, reading the Gospel. They brought him to Constantine who freed him and reinstated him as the Bishop of Myra, a city in present day Turkey. That is the story told in this icon.

The  most pressing issue are the immense number of craquelures, the fine cracks. They are in danger of enlarging, as well as they tell the story of what’s happening below the surface. It’s likely the oak panel is cracking which will cause the paint film to shift. Along St. Nicholas’ robe there is an area of loss on the central cross. Furthermore, across the icon there are many white dots that represent small areas of loss. It will be necessary to consolidate the whole surface of the icon. This will give a smoother and cleaner look to the icon, and make the gilding even more impressive. Stay tuned for more . . .

EDUARD CHARLEMONT PORTRAIT PART 5

Five months ago the Charlemont portrait of two boys came into our studio. With restoration complete on the painting and the frame, we delivered the artwork back to the client; happily, with a day when the snow wasn’t too bad. Once we safely carried the painting inside and navigated the staircase, we used new hardware in the wall and on the back of the frame to secure the portrait in place. The accent light was the client’s original, but we managed to help it with some cleaning. In fitting the portrait in the frame we chose an archival option with brass mending plates that are stronger and non-invasive, a much better option than the original mechanism. It’s with these larger jobs that require a diverse set of restoration skills that we get a great sense of joy and heartfelt warmth. We were very happy to be of service.

Regarded as one of Eduard Charlemont’s (1848 – 1906) greatest works, a set of three murals for the Burgtheater, the Austrian National Theater in Vienna, proved hard to find during our research, both in terms of a description and as photographs. In corresponding with the Burgtheater we came by the knowledge that the murals at the end of WWII had unfortunately been lost in a fire. Originally, they hung in the first intermission room. Two depicted scenes from Antiquity, and the third drew inspiration from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which we learned from the surviving sketches that would have been used as guides for painting the mural.

EDUARD CHARLEMONT PORTRAIT PART 4

This grand and decoratively ornate Italian High Front is a very impressive frame, but unfortunately the years had taken a toll on it. A large degree of coal soot had gathered on the frame, actually merging with the shellac finish. This, in addition to the size of the frame: roughly 57.5″ x 88.25″ with a height of 4.25″ and a width of 8,” made cleaning the frame a more involved and lengthy process. Many, many cotton tips were used.

Over time, the glue that was used to adhere the ornate elements, the leafs, vines, and grape leaves, had turned brittle. This lead to cracking. With a restorer’s adhesive and clamps, we were able to salvage these original elements. Another area that was susceptible to cracking, was the gesso. Once it cracked the problem continued up the layers and ultimately effected the gilding. An extensive amount of re-gilding had to be done, starting with laying the foundation of gesso and then adding clay. We captured some videos of the final steps of this process.

EDUARD CHARLEMONT PORTRAIT PART 3

Next phase of the Charlemont portrait came to a completion. Major work was done to suture the tears that acted as large visual impairments. Unfortunately, the larger of the two tears occurred in one of the areas with lighter color tones, the younger boy’s shin. This made it more visible, but it also allowed the restoration to be more transformative.

Between suturing the tears and repairing them with in-filling and in-painting, the portrait was re-stretched to strengthen its foundation. A critical step for improving its longevity. This is also important because of the size of the portrait, which is very large, 57″ x 87.″ Final steps for the frame are currently taking place. We can’t wait to see how it looks with both restored. Stay tuned for more . . .

Gozzard A Misty Night

A Misty Night had been placed on a mount with a thick amount of adhesive paste. Over time, the glue had discolored and cracked. The first step was to remove the gouache from the acidic mount. Through a lengthy soak with targeted chemistry, we were able to soften the adhesive enough so that we could very carefully remove it with our fingers and a sponge. To neutralize the acids we used another chemical bath to deacidify the gouache. Blotters were then used to flatten and dry the artwork. This also drew-out the discoloration that we were able to correct with in-painting, matching the colors to original, and thus complete the restoration.

James Gozzard (1888 – 1950) was born in Lichfield, Staffordshire, and is known as a painter and illustrator in both oil and watercolor, principally of landscapes of the English countryside. He usually signed his work “J W Gozzard,” his middle name being Walter.

He became a prolific illustrator and his work was reproduced in a variety of formats, including postcards and art prints by Rosenstiels. Many of his paintings were published as prints, both in black-and-white and in color, particularly in the years up until the First World War.

Gozzard also painted under the pseudonym “F Arnold,” and the career he established as a published artist brought him some considerable success, partly as a result of his very precise and careful style, which made his work suitable for publishing in the days before advanced machinery and technology made almost any kind of reproduction possible.

Gozzards name today survives principally on the strength of his rural landscapes and moonlit scenes. He died in 1950.

Hunter Wood Night Sail Complete

Since our last post about this painting we have learned the identity of the ship, the Bluenose, as well as the ship in the distance that it’s racing, the Gertrude L. Thebaud. In 1938, W.R. MacAskill actually recorded some of this footage, which the Nova Scotia Archives was kind enough to upload. You can watch it here, runtime is about 5 minutes.

Shellac had originally been used as a varnish for this painting. Over time shellac will become brittle, turn yellow, and attract dirt. A 4-stage cleaning effort was carried out to remove the shellac, clean the painting, and then finally apply a coat of conservation varnish. The original frame was in good condition, and it paired well with the painting so it was kept and touched-up in some of its problems areas, mostly the edges, where we redid the gesso and gilding, and married it to the original.

Oceanscape by Christine Sullivan

Stemming from a purchase at the Oils By the Sea Gallery in Provincetown, Massachusetts, a collector wished for a similar but larger oil painting by the same artist, Christine Sullivan. Sullivan is an artist we are very happy to have worked with extensively in the past, helping to frame her artwork, including the painting that fostered this commission.

Before the global economy, this was how much of the art world operated: a dealer brought together a buyer’s taste with an artist’s ability to create something very unique and tailored. A creative relationship was formed that was tied together by one more entity: the frame maker.

Due to Sullivan’s strong and developed style, and because the buyer enjoyed the frame for the smaller painting, we developed a similar frame called the American Step, and chose a 3-inch width with white gold.

This was a truly fun and rewarding collaboration that we greatly enjoyed and cherished knowing that these opportunities are very rare in today’s art world.

Eduard Manet Etching Man With Jug

 

This wonderful etching from Eduard Manet (1832 – 1883) Man with Jug (Le Buveur d’Eau ou la Regalade) has a few issues going on with it. As is often the case with older works, harmful masking tape was used to adhere it. In this case the damage is more than usual. Around the mat window masking tape was also used, in addition to the usual portions along the outer edges. There is a considerable amount of acid damage in varying stages, which was accelerated by sun damage. Due to the mats used–there were three–different portions of the etching were subject to different amounts of light. Direct sunlight acted as a catalyst for the acid compounds to burn the paper. The good news is that we think the paper is an early Rives paper, which is a French paper and of very good quality, but is laid and linen. The quality should help the condition of the paper rebound once we treat for acid damage.

To fit the etching into the original frame the bottom of the paper was folded. This left a crease and a severe amount of burning. Though the damage could be beyond our control, we will make every effort to save this area. Stay tuned for more . . .

A French painter, Edouard Manet was one of the first nineteenth century artists to approach modern-life subjects, and is considered to have been a pivotal figure in the transition from Realism to Impressionism.

In 1850 after serving in the merchant marines, Manet entered the studio of Thomas Couture, studying until 1856. The Old Masters influenced him, particularly Velazquez and Goya.

Throughout his oeuvre Manet painted modern day life, yet many of his paintings have deeper elements than their initial impressions of simple and realistic. His work seems to mimic the contradictions and lack of perspective of himself and Paris during his working career. Always controversial, Manet sought to record the days of his life using his own unique vision. From beggars, to prostitutes, to the bourgeoisie he sought to be true to himself and to reproduce “not great art, but sincere art.”

Edouard Manet died in Paris on April 30, 1883.

Fleur-de-lis watermark shown on reverse.

 

Enamel on Glass 1866

This family heirloom is believed to have been made while the descendants were on the boat, immigrating to the United States. The exact year that is believed to have happened is 1866.

Unfortunately, a heavy amount of dust had gathered on the work. We believe the majority of this came from a wood or coal fire. Many, many cotton tips were used to carefully clean the front and reverse. The artist had used an enamel paint, which we stabilized to help its longevity, and its glossy finish, which is one of the strengths of enamel paints. Some areas had loss, and in those we were able to in-paint and match the colors to the original. The frame was in good shape, and we placed it in a Victorian shadow box frame, which we built, made in the same style with matching fillet and float.

Family objects are one of the things we enjoy working on the most, and love it when we can help restore the condition, and add new significance without detracting from the original aesthetics. This painting will be enjoyed for years to come.

Weir Frame for Van Wieck Painting

Nigel Van Wieck’s (1949-) pictures are, in spite of their realistic form of representation, an unending source of fantasy. Animating stimuli also call for us to discover formal design principles, to create narrative links, to play through different possibilities and at the same time to always to shift our perspectives “Reality is much better when it is imagined”, the artist opined on his artistic intentions. But it is only through the elimination of distance, and opening oneself to the works that this new reality is unveiled and begins its delightful play of ambiguities and multiples meanings.

Nigel Van Wieck, who was born in the United Kingdom in Bexley, Kent, and received his training at the Hornsey College of Art in London. The artist turned to the Kinetic Art, a field in which he began to experiment with light, particularly neon light. Ever evolving, Van Wieck began to study the compositional use of light in the works of the Old Masters, and to gather inspiration for his own paintings. The artist cites the Dutch painter Jan Vermeer in particular as one of his great role models.

Van Wieck has been living and working in New York, USA, since 1979. An English style in his artwork is not apparent. Instead there is a strong influence from the American Realist artists, with whom he came in contact with after moving to America. At first it was the American Realist paintings of the late 19th century that impressed Van Wieck, but the strongest impression was Edward Hopper, whose art he thought was exemplary and in whom he perceived a kindred spirit. The comparison between the oeuvre of Hopper and Van Wieck has understandably often been drawn. In fact there are numerous parallels between Hopper’s often isolated and introverted figures who are caught in an urban malaise, and the equally singular figures in Van Wieck’s work. Moreover, the artists are united in their frequent depiction of empty places, in their clear compositional structure and in a fascination with sharp light and shadow effects.

The woman passed-out at a restaurant is a Van Wieck work that has its inspiration from a scene the artist observed. According to the story, the woman, after a fight, remained seated at the table until she fell asleep in a calm yet isolated reprieve. A deep sense of  disorder is somehow captured in this composition of straight tables, straight chairs, the long straight bar counter, and the liquor bottles standing like soldiers.

We prepared a custom Weir frame with 22kt gold, double-gilt to enrich the color. The frame has a warmness that accentuates the lighting in the painting and invites the eye into the composition. It is always an honor and rarity when a frame maker gets to work with a living artist and learn their style and use their own talents to complement.