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.

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.

Kinley Shogren Nellie

This watercolor depicts Mystic, Connecticut with artist Kinley Shogren’s (1924 – 1991) signature use of realism. It was executed in 1984 and was unfortunately incorrectly fitted in its mat. Over time this caused the artwork to bow. Restoration will carefully flatten the work, reestablishing the composition to the artist’s original intent and making it more suitable to place in its new custom Florentine frame with silver to marry the watercolor’s softer tones. Finally, UV-filtering glass will protect the work for years to come.

Kinley Shogren was a Cleveland artist of the mid-20th Century who was known for watercolor scenes around rural Ohio, and was an authority on Great Lakes shipping and ships. A graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1949 his output is estimated to total over 3,500 paintings, including hundreds of boat commissions as well as marine birds, canal locks, and landscapes. His realistic illustrative quality as a painter won him great popularity throughout his career, and the Plain Dealer said he was one of the most popular artists with corporate buyers in the Cleveland area.

Olendorf Zoagli Cinque Terre

Lush color and tall architecture are hallmarks of the Olendorf style (1924-1996) that here take the form of Zoagli, a commune in the province of Genoa. Known for tourism, Zoagli is near the Cinque Terre region which translates to “Five Lands” and offers small yet dramatic coastal towns, a year-round pleasing climate, and beautiful landscapes, traits that led to its inclusion in the Unesco World Heritage list. Not until the 19th century, when rail and roads connected Zoagli, did it bloom into a tourist spot, first attracting the Swiss and English. Unfortunately it was the site of WWII bombing raids that destroyed the center of the town but was then rebuilt and named “XXVII December” in honor of the first raid. Further back in its history, it was infamously pillaged by Saracen pirates led by the famed Dragut, who one French admiral described as “a living chart of the Mediterranean.” In response, Zoagli constructed a pair of towers to bolster its defenses. They continue to stand and were recently restored. One belongs to the Genoese Patrician Villas, and the other belongs to City Hall which can be used to hold marriage ceremonies.

Sir George Solti conducts the Chicago Symphony in Vienna

This serigraph by Franklin McMahon (1921 – 2012) is entitled “Sir George Solti conducts the Chicago Symphony in Vienna.” Harsh mold damage had obscured many of the faces in the crowd which restoration brought back to clarity. The finished work is housed in a custom Italian frame. A couple of the finer points we enjoy about this print is 1) how its art about art, which is kind of like a bilingual ability, and 2) how it represents a gathering of people enjoying and sharing the gifts of art, which is kind of like the adoration of an unspoken language, and something we find worth preserving.

Flyn WWII Portrait 1948

This keepsake, a family portrait, had previously been restored poorly. Originally there was damage due to a hard hit, as well as an unrelated hole near the center of the painting. The previous restorer cut the painting and wax-relined the picture, but due to humidity and other environmental factors the wax re-line delaminated and produced a number of large bubbles. We carefully removed the painting from the stretcher bar, and then from the reverse we gently used heat to loosen the wax re-line that we were eventually able to get in full by gently scraping as well as targeted chemical baths. Once it was gone we were then able to flatten the bubbled areas. The front surface was then cleaned and the portrait relined onto new linen, and then re-stretched using the original stretcher bar. After some in-painting and two coats of conservation varnish the portrait was placed in one of our custom whistler frames done in white gold.

A Modern Take on the Cassetta Frame

With the Renaissance causing an emergence of secular art subjects, there was a need for a new frame style, one that was different from the religious, Tabernacle style. The specific need was to diverge from the elaborate and imposing style of religious frames, which mimicked, on the small scale, Gothic architecture, and head toward a style that was more organized and refined. Cassetta translates to “little box,” and its meaning is reflected in the frame’s appearance: four straight sides with an entablature formate. The other fundamental shift was the change in how the frame related to the work. The Tabernacle frame had sought to be an extension of the artwork while the Cassetta frame tried to emphasize the artwork.

Due to its simplistic nature, the Cassetta frame is very versatile, and one that were were able to modernize in a symbiotic way to three distinct oil paintings by Bill Olendorf (1924-1996). Each custom frame received gilding, and also, to match the frame to the artwork, the panel was painted with the same temperature of color included in the artwork. These works were also plagued by a substantial invasion of mold, and required quite a bit of cleaning.

The Color Choices of Olendorf

Olendorf (1924-1996) studied architecture and design while at Harvard. For picture making, this gave him a firm command of distinct lines and the monochrome color palette, but he would find a far more complex problem when he transitioned to oil painting.

The 19th and 20th century were a volatile time for art theory. Impressionist painters, aided by scientific thought, realized that the color perceived by the eye and the color understood by the brain were two different things. Impressionists aimed to capture the former. One method they used was called broken color, where shades of a color were painted without blending them; this led to the early critique of impressionist works as “unfinished.” Nonetheless, their aim was to enrich the color’s vitality and to give it the actual sensation of light. Neo-impressionism took this approach further and focused more on the analytical theory and division of color and vision. The results of this were techniques like pointillism and divisionism. The next movement was fauvism, which took a radical approach to color choice, and made choices favoring the mood they wanted to portray, not the color you would find represented by the natural world. A great example of this, and to see how far it could be pushed, is Blue Horses by Franz Marc.

As Olendorf developed as an artist, you can clearly see he borrowed from impressionism and fauvism. He created a realism that focused on intense color and a playful palette. The fields in the vineyard are the most impressionist of this group, while the intense color fields in the boat relate to fauvism. This diversity and technical ability is one of the qualities we really like about Olendorf.