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
This abstract oil on canvas by Mainie Jellett (1897 – 1944) suffers from expansion and contraction, a layer of dirt contamination, which is derived from its great “texture” quality, and on the reverse, a patch from a previous restoration. Careful cleaning had to be carried out in a slower manner due to the texture of the artwork and its susceptibility to lifting even with cotton tips. A rolling technique was used instead of a swirling technique. This was a slower process but the amount of contamination we were able to remove was quite staggering. The original linen was a burlap linen fabric that was severely compromised and ready to fall apart. Consolidation was done to halt the deterioration, and then re-lining with new Belgian linen provided greater strength that will be essential for a painting with as much structure as this one. Around the edges, in-painting was done to conceal the places where the original diamond points held in the liner and caused damage.
Jellett used a two varnish system that depended on the different texture of the artwork. The two types were satin, that gives a shine and makes the colors pop, and matte, that absorbs light and diffuses the color. Using software we carefully labeled which varnish was applied to which texture in order to keep accurate what was intentionally chosen by the artist.
Bottom middle was where the tear had been.
With a French mat prepared in the handmade manner: attaching watercolor paper to museum board and then with a ruling pen, creating lines and panels, and with watercolor washes incorporating color tones connected with the art, we gave this George Catlin (1796-1872) print an archival fit. A new American Impressionist frame with feather and ripple carving, gilded in 22 Karat gold, was created to complete the conservation of this magnificent print. We are very happy with the results, taking the artwork from a state of discolored foxing and staining, to accenting its qualities with a French Mat, and then making it the centerpiece of a grand and ornate, gilded frame.
George Catlin Catching the Wild Horse Cleaning
George Catlin Catching the Wild Horse
Ruling Pen and Case.
With the help of our new space, and its extra room, we were able to easily fit these wonderful textiles into shadow box plexiglass frames. Another variable caused by their size, was transportation. To return them we ended up renting a delivery truck, and then carefully installed them in the client’s home–a beautiful home that superbly presents these textiles. The shadow boxes are mahogany with custom liners covered in black linen with wool felt as a conduit to safely attach the textiles. This was our first large project in our new space and we couldn’t be happier with the space and with what it allows us to do.
This silkscreen print by Andy Warhol (1928-1987) suffers from an introduction of acid-based elements that have led to staining. In the top-right portion of the paper we discovered a break, and ripples have formed in the paper, caused by the mechanism used to hinge the artwork. We are very excited to work on such an iconic piece of American Art, and can’t help but notice the serendipitous timing, with the Oscars happening over the weekend.
“Warhol chose the source image for this painting of actress Elizabeth Taylor from a publicity photograph of her 1960 film, Butterfield 8. He created this portrait when Taylor was at the height of stardom, but was also very ill with pneumonia. Warhol remembered: “I started those [pictures of Elizabeth Taylor] a long time ago, when she was so sick and everyone said she was going to die. Now I’m doing them all over, putting bright colors on her lips and eyes.” Art historian Robert Rosenblum reflects on Warhol’s artistry both of technique and of selection: “the contradictory fusion of the commonplace facts of photography and the artful fictions of a painter’s retouchings was one that, in Warhol’s work, became a particularly suitable formula for the recording of those wealthy and glamorous people whose faces seem perpetually illuminated by the afterimage of a flash-bulb.” Source: warhol.org
We were able to continue the cleaning effort and finish this oil on panel by Frances H Norris Streit. The color change is rather remarkable, as is shown by the before and after photograph. This is a strong example for the type of result that can be achieved even if the restoration efforts are non-invasive.
Unfortunately this oil painting had been dropped on a newel post which caused a tear, leaving a circular indent. Threads had not torn completely but had stretched. Weights brought it back into plane and heat helped to bring the threads closer together. Sutures were placed and re-lining was done to give more strength, with final in-fill and in-paint done to conceal the damage. This is a case where you might expect the damage to beyond repair, but we just wanted to show what it possible.
This oil on canvas by Frances H Norris Streit suffers from water damage and a thick contamination of surface dirt, which happened to be petroleum-based. The dirt causes the color of the paint film to appear much darker than it is. Laborious efforts have been underway, using three different chemical solutions to carefully lift the dirt. This process is having such a profound effect that we wanted to share it with you.
Frances Hammond Norris Streit (1918 – 1997) was born in Fulton County, Indiana and died in Long Island, New York. She schooled at the Heron Institute of Art in Indianapolis, IN, receiving a BFA, and furthered her education at the State University of Iowa. Before WWII she worked under the name Frances H. Norris, exhibiting at the Carnegie Institute and the Hoosier Salon. Included in Artists of the Hoosier Salon index as Frances Norris, Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the East, Lauter’s Indiana Artists, and Davenport’s. By WWII she had married and was working in New York as Frances N. Streit and Frances Norris Streit where she specialized in late period murals. She painted the official portrait of Indiana Governor George N. Craig.
Left half clean, right half untouched
Looking better but still areas to clean
We are very pleased with the restoration so far. Besides removing the old varnish, which lightened the color and can be seen in the Before & After photograph, we addressed the tear. Working on the reverse, we pulled threads back into plane to prepare the surface. Then using a white restorer’s compound, we covered the front and delicately in-painted, matching to the original colors. A few more steps remain in this restoration. Stay tuned for more . . .
Before & After
This southwest landscape named At Seven Palms by Carl Hoerman (1885 – 1955) suffers from a vertical tear above the tree in the foreground, small dots of paint loss, a coat of varnish that’s past its prime and changing color, and dirt accumulation that softens the paint color.
According to the artist’s note, At Seven Palms is a scene from the Colorado Desert which itself is a part of the Sonoran Desert, located oddly enough in southeastern California. Elevation ranges from 3,000 feet to a low of 275 feet below sea level in the Salton Trough. Due to its location, the Colorado Desert has a subtropical desert climate with infrequent freezing temperatures, and a measly 2-3 inches of rain per year. Most of the rain comes in the winter, but as much as half its yearly quota can come via summer monsoon spilling over from Arizona and Mexico. The growing season lasts from 250 to 350 days, and summer temperatures can exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The background in the landscape is likely a part of the Peninsular Ranges, a group of mountain ranges that stretch 930 miles, ranging in elevation from 500 to 10,834 feet. The Peninsular Ranges are also the reason for the Colorado Desert’s dry climate, as they block most of the precipitation brought by weather systems.
Carl Hoerman, born in Germany, emigrated to the United States in 1903, at the age of eighteen. He studied and then worked as an architect in Chicago until 1920, when he built a studio and art gallery in Saugatuck, Michigan. Hoerman, with his wife, Christiana, also an artist, frequently traveled to the West and Southwest where Carl would paint desert, Grand Canyon, and mountain scenes. Later, Hoerman would become known as a “dunes painter,” because of his western Michigan landscapes.
The painting has been removed from its frame, carefully cleaned, and re-stretched. The old varnish has also been removed. Colors have already sharpened and given the landscape greater contrast which adds weight to the mountain background and allows the painting to be more dynamic. Addressing the tear and the spots of paint loss are forthcoming. Stay tuned for more . . .
Old varnish removed.
Small white dots mean paint loss.
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 . . .