George Catlin Catching The Wild Horse Cleaning

The initial condition of this George Catlin (1796-1872) print suffered from stains, discoloration, and severe foxing. Foxing is a condition where a brown discoloration appears. The origins for this are somewhat unknown. It’s believed to either be a fungus growth, or an oxidation agent from the components in the paper, or both. The good news is that foxing does not compromise the integrity of the paper. We’ve circled just some of the foxing. The larger circle shows a slight magnification which helps bring out the rich colors and detail of the Native America–some of the strong qualities of this print.

 

The above photographs show the print going through a solution bath. This reduced the foxing and brought out the blue in the clouds, and the white-capped mountains in the distance. We’re getting closer to how the artist envisioned it.

 

Once the print was out of the solution bath, further cleaning was carried out to achieve these pristine results. Crisp whites, most dramatically in the eye of the central horse but also along the paper’s border, heightened detail in the complex grass areas, and an increase feel of the texture in the background. Also noteworthy is a spot at the bottom left of the last picture. There’s a little pinhole where the printer used to place the print.

Restoration will conclude with a custom frame. Stay tuned for more . . .

Jack Gates Pastel Landscape Rustic Vista

This pastel by Jack Gates (1903 – 1997) suffers from flaked pastel and harmful acids. With a brush we were able to clear away some of the loose areas where the upper layers of pastel had flaked, particularly the white portion of the sky, which is the top of three layers and seems to be of a lesser quality as we’ve noticed it’s more prone to delaminating. We also used a scalpel to secure the areas where flaking had started. From the reverse, the work was de-acidified as harmful acids were in the board and were in the process of making their way into the pastels. Stay tuned for more. . .

An impressionist painter of landscapes, figures, still lifes, interiors, and marine scenes, Jack Gates (1903 – 1997) was known for his traditionalist style at a time when modernist, abstract work was in vogue. There is a very apparent influence of the French Tonalist painter Camille Corot.

He was born in the Ukraine and began painting as a youngster in Russia. He studied at the National Academy of Design before emigrating to New York City and attending the Art Students League as a student of Sidney Dickenson, Ivan Olinksy, and Robert Phillip.

He was a member of the the Salamagundi Club, the Allied Artists of America, the Knickerbocker Society, and the Hudson Valley Art Association. Commercially he was represented by Hammer Galleries and The Grand Central Art Gallery. U.S. Navy personnel commissioned him to paint portraits of high-ranking personnel, as did well known personalities: Bess Meyerson, Walter Matthau, and Tony Bennett.

David Shirey, a New York Times art critic, described Gates’ style as personable and inviting, and that these qualities allowed his paintings to “encourage [the viewer] to contemplate them, to walk through them without feeling cramped and to breathe freely among their trees, skies, ponds and fields.” Part of this effect Shirey attributed to the types of brushstroke Gates could employ: “a gestural Expressionist brush that cossets the surfaces of paintings but [he] can also assail them -dashing, sweeping and gliding. He governs the speed of his strokes to accommodate the mood of his pictures.”

Ben Patterson Collage Series

This collage series by Ben Patterson (1934 – 2016) is fun and playful, and yet still provocative. It came in for cleaning and for the pieces to be re-secured. We devised a Velcro system for the weighty Duck Family Dreamland, and thoroughly cleaned the series with a restorer’s solution and quite a few cotton tips.

Benjamin Patterson was born in Pittsburgh in 1934, and graduated from the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, in 1956 with a degree in music. He was a virtuosic double bassist but as an African American he could not find a job in the United States, so he played with various orchestral groups in Canada, including the Halifax Symphony Orchestra and the Ottawa Philharmonic Orchestra (as principal bassist). In the ’60s as a member of the Fluxus movement, Patterson sought to “open people’s minds, ears, and eyes, not necessarily with shock technique, but with surprises and unexpected things so they become more aware and sensitive to the world around them.” By the early ’70s the first of three Patterson children was born, and as a result the art pursuits for Patterson were largely put on hold; as he said “Family was coming along, and papa needed to earn money.” He worked various jobs, and earned a master’s in library science from Columbia University, but in ’87, once his children had finished university he was able to return full-time to art and worked extensively, staging performances and shows around the world. “Artists are like old cowboys; they die with their boots on,” Patterson would say to Interview magazine in 2013.

Polk Osage 1958

Due to differences in the oil paints used for this work, the different colors dried at different rates. This created rifts in the paint film, also known as craquelures. This type of problem was common for Color Field painters, including Leon Polk Smith (1906 – 1996) before he switched to acrylic paints. Over time as these problems emerged, Polk was told to coat the work with varnish, but unfortunately this introduced another element which dried and contracted at its own rate.

Using the Dutch method we stretched the painting and carefully cleaned it and removed the varnish–the black field was where it was it the most troublesome. Linen threads were then added to the reverse to add strength, and heat and vacuum were used to flatten the paint surface.

The original stretcher bar was a fixed corner, a design that does not allow for adjustments to keep the paint film taut. A new stretcher bar was made as well a float frame that matched the style of the previous frame. The painting was then delivered and installed at the client’s house.

Double-sided Louis XVI Frame

In order to present the double-sided letter of French architect and sculptor Gilles-Paul Cauvet (1731 – 1788) we built a custom double-sided frame in the Louis XVI Neoclassical style with a 3/4″ width and a double mat. The frame was gilded and the pedestal was stained with light mahogany.

Cauvet was a prominent sculptor, architect, and designer at the French court. Sculptor for Louis XVI’s brother, the comte de Provence, later Louis XVIII, he also directed the Académie de Saint-Luc, the guild of decorative painters and sculptors. He designed carved boiserie (wood paneling) and furniture for houses in Paris. Many wood carvers were influenced by his book of engraved designs for interiors and furniture, which was published in 1777. We were happy to use our own ingenuity in woodcrafting to help present this bifold treasure.

In memory of Billy Mayer

In memory of Billy Mayer. Studio shots of ceramic sculptures that we gilded for Billy. It was always a pleasure to collaborate and talk shop with Billy. Over the years he was very supportive of my work and our company. We will miss him. There is nothing like being able to share in creative work with another human being.

 

Victorian Landscape

This oil painting by an unknown artist is a strong example of a Victorian landscape. A thatched roof with plenty of character and too unruly for straight lines. A modest mother and child, off-center and not interested in being the focus of attention. The unhitched wagon, the open front door, the sense of daily activities ongoing, and the closeness of the house, clipped by the left and right margin, gives an intimate yet homely perspective.

The work is old, dating back to pre-1900s, and the artist used a prepared board with gesso, which unfortunately cracked with water damage and in some places broke away. The first step was to stabilize and clean the board, and then in-fill where part of gesso had been lost. Topical repairs were then carried out with in-painting and consolidation of the surface. Restoration concluded with a custom Dutch frame with a high front and dark panel.

Pictures in Pictures

A fundamental principle of landscape painting is scene composition. Over the course of several months, while we have tackled the Olendorf (1924-1996) collection, there is a trait of his work that we have been enamored by. Pictures in pictures might be the best way to describe it. We wanted to offer a case study.

In this picture you’ll notice dynamic contrast. This is achieved through the opposing colors of the principle elements: the two cars, the white building, the brown horse, the flecks of brown and yellow flowers on the second floor balcony. This a rich and dynamic scene.

Scanning to the other side of the landscape you’ll see the same red car, but now there’s a pink car tucked behind a pair of trees. With only one person in this picture it’s as if the time of day has completely changed, and things are much quieter and much slower.

Pull back a little to this picture and you’ll see the building in full view, along with the people, and a touch of blue sky. But the focal point, where the color has the most emphasis, becomes the red car. From it there is a strong vertical line going straight up to the flag, the apex of the roof, and the blue sky. A height is given to man, his achievements, and his direction. And it is balanced by the natural growth of the trees framing the left third. The theme of man versus nature is at its strongest in this picture.

Now pull back to the full image and suddenly the dirt foreground and the presence of the horse completely change the dynamics. From a forrest, man has etched out a little trade store, and this transition period is still underscored by the different transportation modes: the cars and the horse. The emphasis of the red car drops a bit with the inclusion of the horse, and what you’re left with is something that is not yet defined, something in flux and change. You have an oasis. A little reprieve. Something off the beaten path. Something unique. Something with the charm of Olendorf.

On-site treatment of mold

This wonderful and expressive work of art by Jean Luc Guin Amant (1951) required some prompt mold treatment, which we were happy to do on-site.

By applying two restorer’s solution we neutralized the mold, and then did spot-treatments with a scalpel to make sure it was gone. The blow driver allowed our chemistries to dry quicker than usual; and the vacuuming prepared the surface, removing the dust and active spores. Mold can be a nasty type of invasion, as what it’s feeding off of is the paint itself. Preventative measures are the best, but in the case of emergencies were are able to make house calls.

Jean Luc Guin Amant has shown heavily throughout Europe and the United States in both solo and group exhibits. Guin Amant began painting on parachutes but moved to more traditional materials such as canvas. He belongs to a younger generation of artist who experiment with video and images in today’s visual art world. Most recently he completed a limited edition book “L’Anemone et l’Ancoliee” with the poet Michel Mathieu. Currently, Guin Amant lives and works in Paris, France.

Middle Eastern Brass Tray

Decorative brass tray from the Middle East came in with a series of ailments. A fall had left it with a dent and reaggravated its decorative elements along the edge which had been fixed once before. Furthermore, some rough soldering was left behind from another attempt at repairs.

The first task was to clean the tray. This was followed by removing the uneven soldering and bending the troubled portion back to square. Along the edge the decorative element was fastened to the tray with copper pins but a number had jumped out of their holes when the tray was dropped. We replaced them and made sure they were fixed into their holes as firmly as possible. Museum wax used as a final step to help protect the work. This is a wonderful tray with intricate decorations that can be used as a serving tray or a wall ornament.