Harry Sunter Seascape

This seascape by Harry Sunter (1850 – 1900) came in with a sizable tear, an accident with the artwork placed in a car and then the family dog finding the same spot to lie down. The surface is also contaminated with particulates; and this happens to be one of those paintings that is more difficult to tell what effect on the colors the cleaning will have. But we do expect a more noticeable change in the sky area, which will strengthen the incredible detail of the three tiny ships on the horizon on the left side. Stay tuned for more …

Harry Sunter was one of the most accomplished and mysterious artists to have worked in the Finger Lakes, around Auburn, NY, in the late 19th Century. There is a remarkable painting of his in the collection of the Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, “The Great Scull Race of July 4, 1878 at Skaneateles,” showing a race and celebration on the lake in downtown Skaneateles. He exhibited in the late 1880’s at both the National Academy of Design and at the Pennsylvania Academy but then suddenly disappeared from the scene.

A. T. Van Laer in 1918 in “Painters of Auburn” wrote: “When I first knew Sunter he was operating a camera in the gallery of Teneyck’s Copying House. On pleasant days, when he found the time to go sketching, I tried to go with him. Usually he went somewhere on the Outlet or at Buck’s Point on the lake and I used to watch him work. This was when I had begun to draw as a student at the Academy and as yet knew little of color, so it became my pleasant part to watch the mysteries of Sunter’s deft handling, as the bright tints of his palette found their way to the fast developing sketch on the canvas. It was marvelous to me then how he did it. Sunter had somehow imbibed Clough’s methods and later developed a pleasing sense of the picturesque. He too loved the sunshine, and I am sure, had he lived he would have taken in a large measure Clough’s place in the affections of Auburnians.

“Sunter made a trip to Block Island one summer and I shall never forget the eagerness with which we awaited his coming and the enthusiasm with which we looked through his summer’s work. Sunter did not live long after this and we have only the brilliant promise of what might have been a successful career.”

Sunter was also a student of William Henry Yates and he was probably a friend and colleague of William Bruce. A 1939 letter to Professor Long at the museum from Henry M. Allen of Auburn states that Harry Sunter married the sister of The Schweinfurth brothers, architects, who later funded the new Schweinfurth Art Center in Auburn.


Fernando Zóbel de Ayala Montojo’s Perales de Tajuña

Perales de Tajuña is named after a small town outside of Madrid, but our experience with it has been a little more worldly than that. Traveling to the West Coast to securely and safely transport it back to our Holland studio; where, after a conservation layover, it headed for it’s penultimate stop, the Philippines, where a lucky individual was able to win it at auction–this artwork is well-traveled.

The painting suffered from dirt particulates across the surface, mold on the reverse, and and on the front a few surface contaminates. Due to the pure and minimalist style of Perales de Tajuña, as well as its mediums and execution, syringe and brushed black against gessoed linen, it was very important for restoration efforts to “stay in its lane,” so to speak. As part of his Serie Negra (The Black Series), Fernando Zóbel (1924 – 1984) captures a wonderful quality in this painting: a type of expressive and fluid binary, that at the same time seems so simple and yet so evocative and mesmerizing. That was one of the wonderful surprises of this job; Zóbel was oddly not an artist we were familiar with, but upon seeing his work it was such a great reminder of how inspiring art can be, and of how refreshing and ingenious Zóbel was in combining the Asian pen and ink style with a Zen Buddhist ethos, and while restricting himself to black and white, somehow managing to infuse it with so much warmth and liveliness.

At the same time as restoration, we reached out to Southeast Asian auction houses, where the Zóbel market is the strongest, and fielded offers and negotiated terms before finally presenting the best offers to our clients, who then decided which one to pick. Arrangements were made to ship the painting out of New York City, and we built a custom crate and rented a van and delivered it in person to the handlers. We also prepared an appraisal for the artwork, as it was necessary for insurance purposes.

We are happy to report that this wonderful artwork sold, and exceeded its high estimate.

Fernando Zóbel de Ayala y Montojo (1924-1984) was a Filipino painter of Basque, Spanish, Danish and German descent. He was a member of the Zóbel de Ayala family, a prominent business family with vast holdings of land and assets including the prominent Ayala Corporation in the Philippines. He is remembered for his mastery of both the real and abstract, and for his friendliness and generosity.

Zóbel was born in Ermita, the civic center of Manila, Philippines. He received his first artistic training from Fernando Cueto Amorsolo, a Filipino artist who was a recipient of Zóbel’s family’s support. Immediately after beginning a medical degree at the University of Santo Tomas in 1942, he began to suffer from a spinal condition that caused him to be bedridden. He taught himself sketching to pass the time while he recovered from his condition. Although he eventually recovered fully, he never gave up his passion for sketching, even while completing a degree in history and literature at Harvard University.

While in Boston, he encountered artists such as Hyman Bloom, Reed Champion, and James Pfeufer; he used this time in Boston to expand his artistic horizons, dabbling in a variety of techniques. In 1954, he began studying at the Rhode Island School of Design and encountered works by the abstract painter Mark Rothko; this encounter led to a vast change towards the abstract in Zóbel’s work. He painted the Saetas, a series of abstract paintings in which he used a hypodermic syringe to create extremely thin lines of color on the canvas; these paintings are perhaps Zóbel’s most famous.

Returning to the Philippines in the late 1950s to help run the family business, Zóbel never abandoned his love for art. In 1962, he held his first one-man show in Manila. Never a businessman at heart, he was most jovial when painting, a mood that is reflected in his art. He became known in the Philippines for his generosity and welcoming nature, always available for a friendly chat. When he moved to Cuenca, Spain in the 1960s, he continued his open door policy at his studio, welcoming many new friends into his life. Inspired by his generosity, his family opened the Ayala Museum in Makati City, Philippines, to showcase both Zóbel’s artwork and his vast personal collection; today, the museum dedicates itself to showing the talents of Filipino artists past and present.

Zóbel passed away from a heart attack while visiting Rome in 1984. Immediately after, the city of Cuenca posthumously awarded Zóbel a Gold Medal. He also received the Presidential Medal of Merit in 2006.


Romanian Interior Painting Finished and Framed

Finishing touches were made to this interior scene from Romania believed to have been done around 1910. Flood damage had caused widespread ailments.

New linen was adhered with an extra layer of Pecap to provide foundational strength. Widespread craquelures were addressed with in-painting, and the old varnish that had yellowed was removed. Careful cleaning was carried out across the entire surface. Some before and after photographs show exactly how transformative the results were and give an idea to what restoration is capable of.

In conjunction with our suite mates, The Nines Framing Studio, a new frame was given to the artwork with European styling, highlighted by an egg and dart motif on the inner rail, and a vine motif on the outer rail.

Willam Aiken Walker Copper Plates in Custom Frames

Final steps to this project (Part1, Part2). A pair of new frames were made in a medley style, combining the strong border of the Louis XVI with the simple slope of the Low American Cove style. Picking up on the Americana of the South, the demi-centers received a basketweave design and the corners were accented with a sgraffito of cotton flowers with leafs. Treating all equal, man and woman alike, the two frames are identical, but with their own original charm that comes with anything done by hand. On the reverse, the copper plates came with their own harness system, and we incorporated it, securing it to the mount with wires in three places.

We’re a bit sad to see them leave, but are thrilled with how they turned out.

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.

Two Cora Bliss Taylor Portraits of One Sitter

These two portraits by Cora Bliss Taylor (1889-1986) are of the same sitter, and we believe they were painted around twenty years apart. The first in the photographs is the younger portrait. A dry paint film has led to some chips and losses, and there are more on the way, but it’s fascinating to see the similarities between the two versions, particularly the facial features and how the artist rendered them over the passage of time. The older portrait also suffers from a dry paint film that has chipped in places. The unique aspect of this painting is that it was originally a full-length portrait of the sitter, but was cut, and the photographs show the losses along this cutline. Stay tuned for more …

Cora Bliss Taylor was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on April 14, 1889. Her father was a veteran of the Civil War and passed away when she was 1 years old. During her childhood, the family traveled around the United States, and France when she was 11 years old, which is where she received her first art lessons.

Cora visited Saugatuck, Michigan, which was to become her home, on her honeymoon in 1914, with her husband, James W. Taylor, a Chicago attorney. She studied painting at the Art Institute of Chicago with Leon Kroll and Leopold Seyffert; Charles W. Hawthorne, Provincetown, Massachusetts; Andre L. Hote in Paris; Morris Kantor, Art Students League, New York; and Vance Kirkland, Denver University. She was a contemporary of Georgia O’Keefe.

Mrs. Taylor won the Chicago Woman’s Aid Prize, Edward B. Butler Prize, and Fine Arts Building Prize from the Art Institute of Chicago where she exhibited a number of times. She also was accepted for a number of exhibitions at the Detroit Museum of Arts and won several prizes, including the American Association of University Women’s prize for her watercolor, “Abandoned”. In 1945, she won Honorable Mention for a painting exhibited at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. She exhibited at the Chicago Galleries Association and other private galleries. Cora was a member of the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts and Letters, and is listed in the original edition of “Who’s Who of American Women”.

In 1931, she founded the Taylor Art School on Holland Street in Saugatuck, a summer art school, with visiting instructors. The Taylor Art Gallery attracted 2,000 visitors who signed the guest register that first year. In 1931, as Art Director of the Saugatuck Chamber of Commerce, she was instrumental in attracting many Chicago people to the Saugatuck area. Mrs. Taylor continued to teach painting for many years, specializing in children. Quite a few of her students went on to make a career in art.

Her paintings are hanging at Hope College, Holland, Michigan; Saugatuck Masonic Lodge, Chicago Public Schools, a number of Women’s clubs, Emerson Unitarian Church, Houston, Texas; Sheridan Public Schools, Sheridan, Texas; and many private homes in Chicago, Western Michigan, and other areas of the country.

Cora Bliss Taylor passed away at the age of 97 on April 21, 1986.

Cora Bliss Taylor, center with hat, circa 1941.


L. Stepano River Scene

This oil painting by L. Stepano (20th Century) came in with a stubborn type of varnish. This was likely applied at some point to cover the numerous cuts across the surface, that were waiting for us once we removed the varnish. Using our gel system, a more robust cleaning method, we were able to remove the varnish. Careful cleaning then removed the surface contaminates and brightened the colors, which was a step in the right direction but also made the cuts more prominent. In-painting was then used to conceal them, and this was followed with new, conservation varnish. These last two steps will be repeated again to finish the restoration.

Unfortunately there is very little biographical information about L. Stepano. We know that he was an American artist from the 20th Century, and one of his paintings, Cattle In A Landscape, went to auction in 2017, having come from the estate of James Rees, the former President and Chief Executive Officer of George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

Don Smit Three Seascape Paintings

These paintings were done by Don Smit, who studied under Charles Vickery, an artist whose works we’ve had the pleasure of restoring and appraising.

All three paintings are troubled with mold invasions. On the first painting, the smallest, the mold has infected the backing, which is also delaminating. We are currently in the process of removing it. The other two were done on artists boards, and are in good condition. We’ll adhere new linen to the first painting, using a heat press which also has the benefit of making the canvas flat. If you look at the pictures of the last painting, you’ll notice it’s canvas has bowed along the edges. We’ll apply honeycomb backing, which has the strength to return it to plane. Molds will be treated through tenting, and the surfaces carefully cleaned. Conservation varnish will finish the restorations. Stay tuned for more…

Gabor Peterdi, The Burning Bush

This painting, The Burning Bush, by Gabor Peterdi (1915-2001) came in with dirt particulates on the surface and an old varnish that was discoloring. Careful cleaning and vacuuming removed the surface contaminates and the varnish. This allowed the colors to pop, and make this abstract work even more dynamic. A new frame was prepared by us, a Dutch Modernist with white gold.

Gabor Peterdi was born in Budapest in 1915 and he died an American citizen in Connecticut in 2001. His studies began at the Hungarian Academy. In 1930, he won the Prix de Rome for painting. He continued his studies in Paris at Academia delle Belle Arti, Academie Julian, and the Academie Scandinavien. In 1939, with the threat of yet another war, Peterdi decided to move to The United States. In New York he received a one-man exhibition of paintings at the Julien Levy Gallery. Peterdi taught at the Brooklyn Museum in 1948, organizing the graphic arts workshop there. He was also a professor of art at Hunter College in 1949, and a Professor Emeritus of Yale University in the 1960s. Peterdi’s book Printmaking Methods Old and New was published in 1959. It continues to be the standard technical reference for both printmaking students and professionals. Peterdi was a great innovator of printmaking techniques. His devised elaborate ways of color printing by collaging copper plates. Over his lifetime he was accorded over 40 prizes, grants, and other honors. His work is included in the Permanent Collections of over 150 institutions around the world.

Romanian Interior Painting

This painting came from Oradea, Romania, and is believed to have been done around 1910. Unfortunately, it had been in a flood, which left it with substantial problems. The water damage created widespread craquelures and rippled the canvas across the entire surface. Lodged in the back of the canvas was a bevy of dust, wood bits, broken glass and dead insects. Restoration will take some time, but with a painting in this condition, once complete it’ll be like seeing it for the first time. If you look closely at the window, there is a structure of a building and we’re hoping to possibly be able to identify it.

Oradea’s King Ferdinand Square is dominated by the State Theater that was designed in 1900 by Austrian architects, Fellner and Hellmer, who also designed the Vienna Opera House. Eight miles from the Hungarian border, Oradea has been inhabited since 300 BC. It’s current population is around 204,000. The pesky Crisu Repede River runs through it. Flood-banks have been able to tame the river, but in 1836 a large part of the town was destroyed by fire. It was rebuilt in the 18th century through the plans of Viennese engineer Franz Anton Hillebrandt following the then-trendy Austrian architectural style called Secession with its richly decorated facades of pale pink, blue, green and white. In addition to the many Baroque buildings, Oradea is known for its rich collection of Art Nouveau architecture. It is the 10th largest city in Romania.

Oredea, Romania.


Since our last post this maritime painting by Morse (1850-1921) has received a few new steps. A complete cleaning has been carried out on the surface. This lightened the color and made some of the paint and fly specks easier to see. The major and several tears were sutured from the reverse and pressed flat with blotters. We used a more substantial reline process, due to the severity of the tears. Mesh fabric, with restorer’s adhesive applied to both sides, were situated between the sutured areas and the new linen. The heat press adhered the layers under pressure and helped to flatten the surface. Next we’ll conduct another round of cleaning, and then touch up the tears with in-fill and in-painting before a final coat of conservation varnish. 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.