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.

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

Frederick Fursman Peasant Girl With One Shoe Off

This painting suffers from a very dry canvas and a considerable accumulation of dirt particulates on the paint surface. There is also stress placed on the painting with how tight the fit is from the stretcher bar. The frame is dry and has dirt contaminates. Two of its corners have lost ornamentation and the liner needs to be replaced.

We’ll clean and re-line the painting. A new liner will be prepared, matching the frame finish; and the frame will be cleaned and hydrated, and the corners mended with casts made to recreate the decorative motifs that were lost. There is also a neat label on the reverse that will be a great keepsake. We’ll de-acidify it and attach it to foamcore before returning it to the frame.

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

This pair of W.E. Baum (1884 – 1956) artworks came into the studio recently. The first is an oil painting depicting the view from his studio. The second is a landscape from a place he knew well, Sellersville, Pennsylvania.

On the oil painting there have been a few areas of loss, and the canvas has cupped due to the moisture let in by the frame. The typical dirt contaminates also plague the surface of this artwork. In-fill and in-painting will restore the areas of loss, and deep cleaning with remove the dirt contaminate. To stabilize the canvas it will be placed on a honeycomb panel. This will have the added benefit of undoing the cupping so it can remain flat. Its frame is a 19th Century frame. There are some areas of loss and they will be addressed through new casting.

The pastel was done on a board, and it is possible that there was also paper involved, but further investigation will be needed to determine that. However, the board contains acids that have migrated to the pastel and are degrading it at the cellular level through chemical burns. We also suspect that the acids are causing staining, but that the pastels are covering it. In some places the pastel has started to flake, which is largely due to its age. Consolidation will return it to a consistent plane. The board will be deacidified, and if we find that there is paper, it will also be deacidified and then placed on new, archival board. This pastel came in a art nouveau frame that lacks the depth needed to keep the pastel from the glass–this has caused some pastel loss in the past. To fix this, a back-up will be given to the frame, and UV-filtering glass will replace the original glass.

Stay tuned for more…

Walter Emerson Baum, the second of five children, was born in Sellersville, Pennsylvania on December 14, 1884. His family was known for musical talents, but he studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and later received an honorary degree from Lehigh University.

Baum was a prolific artist who exhibited in over one-hundred fifty museum exhibitions and received over thirty major awards. Baum gained nationwide recognition when he won the prestigious Sesnan Gold Medal in 1925 at the Pennsylvania Academy of Art Annual. Later he won the Zabriskie Prize in 1945 from the American Watercolor Society and the Medal of Honor in 1953 from the National Arts Club.

He is considered the “father of art in the Lehigh Valley,” and he wrote extensively on the subject for the Sellersville Herald, the Doylestown Intelligence and the Allentown Evening Chronicle. He also lent his expertise and criticism to the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin and the Philadelphia Sunday Bulletin serving as art editor and critic for both as well as for the publication, Two Hundred Years, a study of the Pennsylvania Germans and their heritage.

His dedication to the improvement and preservation of art culminated with his founding of the Lehigh Art Alliance and the co-founding of the Allentown Art Museum. Between 1918 and 1926, Baum taught art classes at his home in Sellersville. After a student suggested that he offer summer art classes in Allentown, Baum founded his own school of art in 1929.

Besides directing the Baum School of Art, Baum worked as the first director of the Allentown Art Museum and amassed a major regional art collection of the period. In June of 1956, Baum retired as director of the Baum School and the Allentown Art Museum. Later that month he wrote his last column for the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin. Shortly thereafter, on July 12, 1956, he died of a heart attack.


With the extensive tear sutured and the paint surface carefully cleaned, restoration efforts turned toward the frame. It is in the Victorian style, and is period to the painting, about the 1870s to 1910s, and is a wonderful frame but was in rough shape. Dirt accumulation and missing ornamentation had impaired its appearance. Molds were created to replicate the lost areas of the frame, and composition shaped to match them. These were then slotted into place with fine cutting and sanding. Gesso, clays, and then gilding matched it with the rest of the frame.

We are very pleased with how the painting and frame restoration came out, and then once again when we fitted the painting back into the frame and saw how the gilding, burnished in the sunlight, accents the color temperaments found in the painting. They are truly a great match.

The artist, Cornelius Van Duren (1915 – 2013), spent part of his life in Holland, Michigan and was a decorated war veteran, serving 30 years in the army in WWII, Korean War and Vietnam. He received the combat infantry badge, bronze star media with valor, among other awards. In 1965 he moved to Long Beach, California where he lived until passing away at the age of 98.

The painting is a depiction of Lily and the Lion by the Grimm Brothers.

Frame Composition: Restoration of Vintage Ornate Frames

A few of the older frames we have at our studios are in need of replaced ornamentation. It’s an involved process to replicate what is 150-year-old frame-working. We use an in-house formula for our composition, made from six ingredients. A mold is created and the composition formed from it, and then fitted into place with cutting and sanding. Then gesso, clays, and gilding are added to match it with the rest of the frame in what will ultimately be a black glaze over gilding. The great aspect of composition is how well it can be shaped in a refined manner, which makes it ideal for decorative ornamentation. Stay tuned for photographs of the finished frames . . .

Edgar A. Rupprecht Landscape

This Edgar A. Rupprecht (1889-1954) landscape was done on a very lightweight linen that, over time, has caused some issues. Dehydration to the canvas and the paint film have led to craquelures. This issue is heightened by the canvas cut very close to the size of the stretcher bar, and with how much the stretcher-bar was keyed-out at the corners. As you can tell from the cleaning tests, the cotton tips picked up a fair amount of dirt contaminates.

Edgar Rupprecht was born in 1889 in Zanesville, Ohio. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago under Harry Wolcott, John Norton, and Karl Buehr; and was also influenced by the ultra-conservative Kenyon Cox, who visited Chicago in the spring of 1911 when he delivered the famous Scammon lectures. Cox also taught at the Art Institute, where he noticed that students were stressing expression over drawing and design, an influence that would have made its way into Rupprecht’s style.

Rupprecht won the Goodman Prize at the Art Institute in 1922 and the Holmes Prize in the following year. Perhaps Cox’s “Classic Point of View” was not what Rupprecht was looking for, as he enrolled in 1925 at Hans Hoffmann’s Schule für Moderne Kunst (School for Modern Art), taught by Hofmann himself. He became Hoffman’s assistant at The School for Modern Art’s summer sessions at Capri (1925-27) and Saint Tropez (1928-29). But the school was closed in 1932 due to hostilities from the Nazis Party.

Rupprecht did not continue down the modernist road. His style changed to a more realist-orient approach that maintained the principles of outlined forms and abstraction. This final style was closer to Charles Burchfield and other American Scene painters. The titles of Rupprecht’s works exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago between 1916 and 1948 suggest recognizable (if not strictly realistic) images, such as The Inlet and Setting Sail. It is possible that he was conforming to the dictates of the Public Works of Art Project during the 1930s, when government officials advised artists to submit only realistic works. Rupprecht was a member of the Chicago Society of Artists and he worked for the Federal Arts Project Easel Division until 1936.

Tallmadge and Watson Architect Sketch

This first edition sketch by Tallmadge and Watson Architects of the Saugatuck Woman’s Club just came in. It’s a wonderful piece of history and has great cultural significance for the area. As the photographs detail, a piece plywood had been fitted to the back, and this introduced a substantial amount of acid contaminates.

After de-fitting the sketch was rather smelly and we promptly placed it in a chemistry bath. Along the edges you can see the dark brown color caused by wood exposure on the back plus the rabbets on the side. Even the grain of the plywood has been acid-burned into the back of the paper. The frame is rather dirty, but it is cleaning up nicely.

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.

Hoerman Capri Harbor

This Carl Hoerman (1885 – 1955) oil painting suffers from a brittle canvas that lacks strength, as well as a contaminated paint surface from tar and nicotine. Located through the signature is a bad scrape. In one of the windows, there is an area where the painting was hit, and two more scrapes exist in the sky on the right-hand side. The stretcher bar needs more lift to support the canvas, and the frame is contaminated with dirt, has cornering issues, and would help the canvas if it was backed-up. Therefore, it will also be restored.

Across the internet this painting has been called the Italian Harbor and was given a date of 1937. With a little cleaning we discovered the date, right next to Hoerman’s signature, is clearly a 27, and, after some investigation on the internet, we believe that, more specifically, the harborscene depicts a part of the island of Capri, based on the color of the buildings, the mountain structure in the background, and the landmark clocktower on the right hand portion of the painting that appears to be the Piazza Umberto I.

Stay tuned for more. As you can see from our cleaning tests, there is plenty of contamination that needs to come off.


A shocking discovery was waiting for us when we started to clean this Carl Hoerman (1885 – 1955). The artist had used copper paint that reflects, particularly in the orange and red tones, when the light catches it just right. The first few photographs show this attribute. This would have been a very early instance for copper paint. Cleaning continued with great results, as shown by the in-process photographs. Previously, we had sutured the tears on the reverse. These were in-filled and then concealed on the front with in-painting. The original frame suffered from water damage and was also restored. Its key corners were rejoined and re-laminated. A few gauges were also in the frame, and the frame had aged into a brassy color. New gesso and clay were applied before re-gilding and adding new finish.

HH Betts, Mountains and Birches with Cabins

This oil painting suffers from heavy tar and nicotine stains across the surface. The first step is deep cleaning, which we’ve made strides already. Still to come will be the complete transformation, and a back-up to the frame to allow the painting to sit with ease. This restoration will be a great example for how a simple thing like cleaning can greatly influence how a painting looks.

From a prominent family of painters, Harold Betts (1881 – 1951?) followed in his ancestral footsteps and became a painter and illustrator, making important trips West in 1913 and 1929. He became especially known for his Grand Canyon paintings and his depictions of Pueblo Indians.

Betts lived in Chicago where he exhibited at the Art Institute; and in Muskegon, Michigan where he exhibited at the Hackley Gallery. He also exhibited at The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.