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.

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Ernest Dreyfuss Still Life With Mandolin

This still life by Ernest Dreyfuss (1903-1977) was suffering from significant delimitation issues. Large areas of paint had lifted from the canvas, and some had even fallen off. The original varnish had yellowed which greatly altered the color tones.

The painting was de-fit and then where delamination had occurred, hydration was applied in the form of a restorer’s adhesive. This required the use of a syringe as pockets of paint film had lifted and it was important to address the whole pocket and not just the edges. Lost paint film was fitted back into place, and blotters weighted the areas to give a firm bond for the adhesive.

To strengthen the foundation, Belgian linen was attached to the existing linen, and then deep and careful cleaning removed the surface contaminates and the yellowed varnish.

The painting is now in the final stages, only a few places left that need to be in-painted. A custom frame is also being decided upon. Stay tuned for more…

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.

Lee Krasner Update

After the re-line and re-stretch this Krasner painting has been rather cooperative with the restoration. The previous stretcher bar was too narrow, and it clipped about half an inch from the right and left edge. So far the crease marks left behind are all but gone, and only a minimal amount of in-painting will be needed. Frame ideas are still being discussed will the client but we’ll share photographs once it’s finished.

Born to a Russian immigrant family living in Brooklyn on October 27, 1908, Krasner decided early on to pursue a career in the arts. Enrolling at the Cooper Union in 1926, the young artist struggled to find the appropriate artistic milieu to encourage her talent. Beginning in 1928, she studied for a brief time at the Art Students League, then at National Academy of Design from 1928-1932, and subsequently at City College in 1932-33, where she obtained a teaching certificate. However, the teachings of the influential artist Hans Hoffman at his renowned school in Greenwich Village had the greatest impact on Krasner’s artistic development.

In the 1930s, Krasner became acquainted with Harold Rosenberg, who would become one of the most influential art critics of his generation. In 1934, Krasner was appointed to the Public Works of Art Project, and the following year she and Rosenberg were assigned to Max Spivak’s mural project (for the Federal Art Project [FAP]).  Their positions—more as de-facto personal assistants than artistic collaborators on the project since Spivak preferred to work alone—allowed for ample conversations and lively debates about art, leftist politics, and intellectual developments. Rosenberg, an aspiring poet, introduced her to the work of Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud.  The French Symbolist poet Rimbaud provided a tremendous source of inspiration for the artist, particularly in his poem “A Season in Hell,” which Krasner excerpted and inscribed on the wall of her studio in 1941.

In 1940, Krasner joined the American Abstract Artists (AAA), a group dedicated to creating international abstract art whose slogan announced their aims “For Peace, for Democracy, For Cultural Progress.” Her participation in AAA exhibitions from 1940 to 1943, her outspoken attitude and involvement in protests organized by the Artists Union, and her affiliation with Hofmann’s school increased her reputation in the early 1940s. She received a public mural commission for the New York radio station WNYC (which was never executed), and also participated in several group exhibitions. These included French and American Painting, a show organized by John Graham that opened in January 1942 at McMillen Inc. design studios.

French and American Painting marked the first occasion where Krasner and Pollock exhibited their work in the same show. Indeed, after receiving the offer to participate in the exhibition, Krasner visited Pollock’s studio to introduce herself, not realizing that she had had met Pollock previously. In 1945, the couple both contributed paintings to A Problem for Critics at Howard Putzel’s Gallery 67.  They were married later that year in an intimate ceremony in The Springs, Long Island, where they had purchased a farmhouse not far from the home of Harold Rosenberg and his wife May Tabak.

In 1946, Krasner launched her Little Image series, which got their name from how little her studio was. These paintings incorporated an all-over compositional technique using variously short dabs, dense webs of dripped paint, and grids of ciphers and hieroglyphic forms. The Little Image paintings were informed by Krasner’s religious training as a child, when she learned Hebrew, and also by post-war Zionism.  More broadly, Krasner’s calligraphic paintings revealed the artist’s exploration of symbols and sign systems; she explained, “I thought of [my unconscious messages] as a kind of crazy writing of my own, sent by me to I don’t know who, which I can’t read, and I’m not so anxious to read.” It was a period of artist growth that Krasner said she was waiting for something to happen, confident that the repetition of familiar pigment and canvas would eventually make something. These works were not executed on an easel, but on the floor or a table. This marked the only time she ever worked looking down on her canvases.

In 1953, Krasner began to destroy both Pollock’s and her own work to generate small collages composed of the fragments of sliced canvases. The collages that resulted from this process of destruction and recombination displayed complex interlocking forms, realizing in both a material and visual way the tension of opposing forces encouraged by Hofmann years earlier. These works also reveal the painter’s appreciation for Matisse’s lively color. Krasner combined the principles of Hoffman and Matisse with her admiration for Cubist drawing.

Following Pollock’s death in 1956, Krasner responded with a group of works called Earth Green. The series featured monumental painterly explosions addressing themes of renewal, such as harvest, fertility, and growth. Sometimes referred to as “autobiographical,” these Abstract Expressionist figurative paintings often depict hybrid, gender-neutral personnages within carefully structured canvases that balance horizontal and vertical forces. In 1959 Krasner launched another series inspired by death. These works, referred to collectively as “Night Journeys” are part of her larger Umber series and are characterized by their limited palette of blacks, whites, ochres, and browns. Also distinctive are their mixed use of sprayed and spattered paint and the intense emotions they evoke. In 1958 Krasner also produced a large-scale mosaic for the Uris Building in New York utilizing some of the same forms as her collages.

In the mid-1970s, Krasner’s work came full circle. After rediscovering several portfolios of the charcoal Nude Study from Life drawings in 1976, she saved (and likely signed and dated) those she wished to keep, giving some as gifts to friends and colleagues. The remaining drawings she cut into abstract forms and sliced and pasted these fragments onto large canvases. Painting on top of the collage, she titled the series, Eleven Ways to Use the Words to See. These works expressed the artist’s interest in both Cubist design and Fauvist color, as well as her career-long engagement with drawing, painting, and collage.

That decade also witnessed the ascendancy of Krasner’s national reputation. Her work was exhibited in several major exhibitions that celebrated the varied aspects of her oeuvre, including Lee Krasner: Large Paintings at the Whitney Museum of American Art, organized by Marcia Tucker, and the traveling show Lee Krasner: Collages and Works on Paper, 1933-1974 initiated by the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Two other important exhibitions were Krasner/Pollock: A Working Relationship, curated by Barbara Rose, and Lee Krasner: Works on Paper at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.  After suffering from arthritis and battling various illnesses since 1962, Krasner died in 1984.

Photograph of Mrs. Dean

This photograph of a Grand Rapids resident, Mrs. Dean, had been stored in the attic of her home. After the home changed hands, the new homeowners discovered this photograph, fell in love with it, and brought it in for restoration.

The photograph’s composition was very dry, the result of no AC in the attic, and there were surface contaminates across the front, the painting and frame had actually been under soot. Despite this situation, the photograph was in remarkable shape.

Micro-vacuuming and a feather duster cleaned the photograph surface and removed the dry particles. About half of the frame’s ornamentation had been lost, and the remaining half was very dry and close to falling off. With casts and molds, the lost ornamentation was replaced. Clays and gilding resurfaced the entire frame and dirty shellac was added to match the old and the new. The original, antique glass was conserved.

TALLMADGE AND WATSON ARCHITECT SKETCH FINISHED

This first edition sketch by Tallmadge and Watson Architects of the Saugatuck Woman’s Club is ready to be returned. Chemistry baths lifted the stains that came from acid contamination, of which there was quite a bit. Besides the stains, there was widespread mold invasion. Another round of chemistry baths neutralized these. Careful cleaning across the surface removed dirt contaminates and returned a clarity to the image.

The frame is original, and what’s typical of this period, for architect sketches, is to use a gilded, natural-wood frame. After cleaning, we saw that in the recesses, the frame did at one time have this aesthetic. Once cleaning was complete, we returned this finish in the period standard. To finish, UV-filtering glass was added to help protect this lovely piece of local history that we were very grateful to be able to work on.

In 1905 Thomas Tallmadge decided to start his own architectural firm with draftsman Vernon S. Watson. Although Watson was the chief designer, Tallmadge became the face of the firm due to his commitment as a historian and teacher. He taught at the Armour Institute of Technology from 1906 to 1926. Tallmadge is credited for coining the term “Chicago school” in an article for Architectural Review to describe the recent trends in architecture pioneered by Burnham, Louis Sullivan, and others. Tallmadge took sole control over the firm after Watson retired in 1936. They were best known for their Prairie School works.

Marriage Certificate Renewal

We believe, like many documents of the early 1900s, this marriage certificate was probably rolled up and placed in a tube for safekeeping. Some time later, when it was taken out, in a likely low humidity environment, the unrolling was enough to crack the paper in several places. At that time Scotch tape was used to repair it, and the problem there is that Scotch tape is laden with acidic compounds, particularly old Scotch tape. Around the perimeter you can notice a darker color. This was likely caused by a previous frame that it might have been in and the discoloration would have come from the acidic components in the frame. Further color distortion can be see in the rest of the document: the widespread lightened tones are due to sun shock.

Careful scalpel work and chemical softeners removed the Scotch tape residue. With several rounds of chemical baths we were able to treat the acid staining. Next we in-filled with paper of a similar condition, and gave it a new backing to help flatten it.Along the cracks, in-painting concealed the lost areas, and the faded writing was touched-up to return its original strength and weight.

Antique Quilt Collection

In age, these quilts range from the Post-Revolutionary War to the Civil War to the Great Depression. There are five in total, three of which are going into custom frames. One thing these quilts have in common is that they are quite large–the largest being 105″ x 85.”

Using our large waterbath we’ll use a very safe and dilute formula to clean the stains, adding extra strength with a conservation paste that we’ll gently scrub into the problem areas. Storage in wooden chests turned out to be the culprit for acid stains. They show as a light yellow and luckily will not be as difficult to remove. Afterwards the quilts will be carefully dried and blotted with wool felt. This step will also give us the chance to help square the dimensions.

In the areas of loss, period fabrics will be used to in-fill, with an emphasis placed on salvaging as much of the original fabric as possible.

Three of the quilts will be sewn to a mount and placed behind UV-filtering OP-3 plexiglass in a shadow box frame.

The oldest quilt is the Sally Campbell Quilt, the first in the photographs. It comes from the Federal style within The Young Republic age of American history. It also happens to be the largest, and it has an interesting asymmetrical design that we are still in the process of figuring out what type of furniture it was meant for. If you look closely you’ll notice the smaller, blue stars flank two sides, but share a corner, and at a third edge it stops midway through the larger stars that are encircled with the blue background. We expect to uncover some fascinating history with these quilts. Information that we’ll surely pass on. Stay tuned for more…

ADOLF DEHN CENTRAL PARK WATERCOLOR FINISHED

Substantial staining and several drips troubled this Central Park snowscape. With the proper treatment and stain removal the discoloration disappeared. This treatment greatly improved the color dynamics, which is one of the rewarding treats we typically find when working on a snowscape. These new, softer color tones were accented with a custom Modernist Marin 258 frame.

Adolf Dehn (1895-1968) was born in Waterville, Minnesota. He began creating artwork at the age of 6. His student and early professional life began with a dedicated pursuit of black and white topics as a natural and expressive watercolorist. By 1920, after formal training as an illustrator and lithographer, he began to create ink drawings and lithographs, the sales of which supported him though the depression.

In the early 1920’s, Dehn moved to Europe, and developed his imagery of cabaret, park scenes, burlesque, and European landscapes of the roaring 20’s. He returned to the Midwest during the depression and by 1936 he started to work in the watercolor medium. He discovered a fondness for its characteristics of finish, fluidity, and adaptability for effects that could be either deliberate or spontaneous.

It seems watercolors also agreed with Dehn’s open, effusive, and passionate character. During the 30’s and 40’s, his favorite subjects were Midwest and Northeast farmscapes. His eventual home of New York City also became a frequent subject matter as he captured the essence of the city’s burlesque, Central Park, Harlem nightclubs, industrial yards, and areas of high society.

He died in New York City in May 1968, and left behind a vast body of lithographs, watercolors, drawings and prints, which are in the permanent collections of nearly 100 museums across the United States and Europe.

 

FREDERICK FURSMAN PEASANT GIRL WITH ONE SHOE OFF FINISHED

Due to unusual circumstances, this Frederick Fursman (1874 – 1943) portrait had a foreshortened stretcher bar. This gave the top-left of the portrait, where there is a painting in the painting, cropped dimensions and unfortunately part of the woman was folded back and lost from view. The portrait had been like that for some time, and the wear and tear of the stretcher bar caused major areas of loss. In-painting was necessary to restore the top margin, and a new stretcher bar was prepared, one that matched the dimensions of the painting. We also restored the frame, using casts to in-fill lost ornamentation. This is a wonderful, introspective portrait, and now its scope is back to how the artist intended it.

A painter and teacher, Frederick Fursman (1874 – 1943) was born in El Paso, Illinois and studied in Paris at the Academy Julian and in Chicago at the Art Institute. Early in his career, he painted in France in an impressionist style, depicting the landscape of Brittany and figures in that landscape.

In 1910, he and fellow artist Walter Marshall Clute founded a summer school of painting in Saugatuck, Michigan, which would later become Ox-Bow. It was to draw inspiration from the Smith Academy and the Academe Julian, encouraging the bohemian social life of Brittany and the literary soirées of the evening clubs in Chicago. He explained to a reporter in 1930, “We found the spot one day by chance as we walked along the river and cut through the woods to the lagoon. That was in 1910. Some of my pupils at the Art Institute had been working in a summer class at Sauguatuck with Walter Clute and me for several years…I found the place as charming as its name, and this spot, close to the village and yet quite apart from it…was ideal for our purpose. The Inn was already operating. The oldest part of the present building had once been an Indian fur-trading post. Later, it had served as a lumberjack’s hotel. When the axmen left the fisherman came–now the artists.”

While serving as director, Fursman rented the local lighthouse from the government for $10 per year, and would commute to work either by swimming or by rowboat. He supplied the school with its personality and strength, encouraging free expression, experimentation, and the active yet disciplined pursuit of plein-air painting. In 1920 he bought a home in downtown Saugatuck, and in 1931 he organized the Saugatuck Arts Association.

By 1913 and 1914, when he had returned to Brittany, he was less focused on representation in his paintings and had turned increasingly to abstraction with sensational color that showed the influence of the French fauvre painters.

Fursman exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy, Corcoran Gallery, and the Art Institute of Chicago. His work is in the collection of the Toledo Museum of Art.

A couple of works by W.E. BAUM Finished

This pair of W.E. Baum (1884 – 1956) artworks, along with their frames, were recently restored. The first is a pastel from a place he knew well, Sellersville, Pennsylvania, and the second is an oil painting that actually depicts the view from his studio.

The pastel required a substantial amount of in-painting, as the dryness of the pastel had led to flaking. The board had introduced acid contaminates, but it was an artist’s prepared board, and that allowed us to “skin” it so we could easily de-acidify it. A new archival board was adhered, and an archival spray was used to consolidate the pastels.

The oil painting was also given a better backing, our honey-comb panel, which is very sturdy and provides excellent support. Upon investigation, we discovered an area at the bottom that had been gauged out and badly repaired, and there were also losses occurred where nails had been driven in. These areas were filled and then in-painted.

Museum glass was given to the pastel frame. It was also backed-up to allow the glass and paint surface to sit clear of each other. Before this wasn’t the case and it had actually led to some rubbing and loss of pastel. Motifs on the oil frame had areas of loss. These were remade through casts and adhered.

W.A. Reaser Oil Painting and Louis XV Frame

This painting by W.A. Reaser (1860 – 1942) had been near a fireplace for some time and it suffered from prolonged smoke exposure and even slight burn damage. The paint surface was also heavily contaminated with smoke, tar, and nicotine; and craquelures, tiny ridge-like abrasions in the paint surface, had formed due to a lack of moisture.

To improve stability we re-lined with Belgian linen and then tented to hydrate the canvas. Tenting rejuvenated the painting, but it also had the advantage of adding pliability to the craquelures which made them easier to consolidate. Deep cleaning  removed the surface contaminates of smoke, tar, and nicotine. The painting was re-stretched onto the stretcher bar and then, along the craquelures, the areas were consolidated and in-painted. More in-painting was done to the areas of heat damage. Through the reverse, gesso was added to prevent the paint from causing the canvas to deteriorate. Conservation varnish was applied to finish.

The period Louis XV frame had lost decorative moldings, was very dry, and some of the existing portions needed consolidation. The frame’s gold leaf finish was also very dirty from fireplace soot.

The frame was carefully cleaned and given a back-up to add strength. Existing portions were consolidated with glue adhered underneath and in-between. To repair the ornamentation we created composition and formed to a mold. These pieces were fitted into place, fine-tuning with cutting and sanding. Final surface touches were made applying gesso, clays, and gilding to match the rest of the frame.

Born on Christmas Day, 1860 at Hicksville, Ohio, Reaser began studying art at the Mark Hopkins Institute in San Francisco. From there he continued his training in Paris at the Académie Julian in 1888-89, where hundreds of his fellow Americans congregated for instruction. His teachers were Jules-Joseph Lefebvre and Benjamin Constant.

Already in 1890, Reaser was exhibiting at the Paris Salon (Portrait of Mrs. R., and Bath Attendant) and in 1893 he contributed Girl Reading and a pastel entitled Mother and Child. After returning home, Reaser won gold and silver medals at the California Exposition in 1894 then the First Hallgarten Prize at the National Academy of Design in 1897.

He continued to submit figure painting to other national exhibitions (to the Art Institute of Chicago in 1897 and the Pennsylvania Academy, 1898 and 1900). His Portrait of Senator W.B. Allison hangs in the U.S. Senate lobby, and he is known to have painted murals in private homes. The Carnegie Museum of Art has his Mother and Daughter and the Iowa State Historical Society has some of his works. In addition, the Des Moines Art Center has Old Man and Sleeping Child.

Reaser was most active exhibiting at the Carnegie Institute (1897-1912).  He developed an astonishingly free broken-color technique in pastel, shown in Seaweed Gatherers, Italy, probably from around 1910. The entire picture surface is enlivened by juxtaposed strokes of pastel, while the artist limited his selection of colors to sky blue, ultramarine, viridian, and violet.  Reaser died on December 9, 1942 in Minneapolis.

Source:
Clark, Edna, Ohio Art and Artists. Richmond, VA: Garrett and Massie, 1932, p. 486.