Self-portrait by Alfred Juergens

The self-portrait by Alfred Juergens (1866 – 1934) has deep and severe damage, and is extremely dirty. Due to its age and its extreme dry condition, extensive instances of cupping and craquelures have appeared.

We have removed the painting from its stretcher bar and vacuumed the reverse and removed the adhesive patches. Initial tests have been carried out on the front to determine how stubborn the old varnish is.

After careful cleaning, the painting will be re-lined to improve its foundation and allow us to consolidate the cupping and craquelures. Once it’s re-stretched we will in-paint where necessary. Stay tuned for more.

Alfred Juergens was born in Chicago on August 5th, 1866. Juergens studied at the Chicago Academy of Design, and also abroad at the Munich Royal Academy under Kochler, as and was also a pupil of Wilhelm von Diez. 

At this time, Juergens was focused on mural decorations, and he became a member of several noteworthy organizations: Munich Artists Association, Artists Association of Germany, and the International Society of Fine Arts. His works were awarded silver medals at Madrid and Munich, and a bronze at the Panama Pacific Exposition of 1915. 

Juergens transitioned subject matter from religious scenes to flowers and tranquil genre scenes. The Art Institute of Chicago and the National Academy of Design exhibited many of his works. 

Removing a Painting From a Stretcher Bar

This painting from the Civil War period proved to be one of the trickier paintings to remove from its stretcher. Besides the more obvious time-related effects: loss of hydration, degradation of paint film, destabilization of canvas, degradation of the stretcher bar wood–time has also seen the advancement in how paintings are attached to stretcher bars, and as a result this painting had a few tough corners. Some delicate scalpel work and finessing with fingers and one of our newer restoration agents helped to get this painting off while maintaining as much canvas integrity as possible. Stay tuned fore more…

What happens behind the painting

A common problem for oil paintings that make their way into our is a dry canvas. Some of this stems from the age of the painting and the natural degradation that can occur. In addition to this, archival practices have improved throughout the years; but, then again, shocker, artists don’t always play by the rules or seek-out the best archival practices while the muses are speaking them. And then more traumatic occurrences can occur, like flood damage, and those can also take a heavy toll.

Despite the cause, one of the best practices is to adhere new archival linen to the reverse. We make an in-house adhesive, that is quite pungent, and heat it to a liquid that we can then spread. Often times this process is done later in the day when foot traffic in the studio is at a minimum, or when the weather cooperates we can wheel our nifty worktable outside and work under the influence of some fresh air.

Adhesive is applied to one side of the new linen, and to the back of the painting, and then the two are sandwiched together, and “cooked” in a heat press. The result is a tremendously good foundation for the painting, with the added benefit, curtesy of the pressure in the heat press, of consolidating the paint film where nasty craquelures might have occurred. At this point, the paint film is now ready for further restoration.


Bonus question: How do you reline a canvas that has a painting on both sides?

Answer: You edge-line it. Instead of covering the whole painting you place strips along the edge.


C.C. Moll Windmill Painting

This painting suffers from an extremely thin linen. This led to a weak foundation for the paint film, and is the reason for the widespread and severe craquelures. Paint loss has also occurred, and is the worst along the edges. At the bottom left corner, we found an unusual surprise. What looks work done by an upholsterer, the canvas was folded several times before being attached to the stretcher bar. This section was challenging to undo, but after a little finessing and prodding with the right tools, we were able to get it clear. We have since re-lined the painting onto new linen to give the foundation support as well as consolidate the craquelures. In-fill has addressed the areas of loss and prepared the surface for in-painting. Stay tuned for more…