This southwest landscape named At Seven Palms by Carl Hoerman (1885 – 1955) suffers from a vertical tear above the tree in the foreground, small dots of paint loss, a coat of varnish that’s past its prime and changing color, and dirt accumulation that softens the paint color.
According to the artist’s note, At Seven Palms is a scene from the Colorado Desert which itself is a part of the Sonoran Desert, located oddly enough in southeastern California. Elevation ranges from 3,000 feet to a low of 275 feet below sea level in the Salton Trough. Due to its location, the Colorado Desert has a subtropical desert climate with infrequent freezing temperatures, and a measly 2-3 inches of rain per year. Most of the rain comes in the winter, but as much as half its yearly quota can come via summer monsoon spilling over from Arizona and Mexico. The growing season lasts from 250 to 350 days, and summer temperatures can exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The background in the landscape is likely a part of the Peninsular Ranges, a group of mountain ranges that stretch 930 miles, ranging in elevation from 500 to 10,834 feet. The Peninsular Ranges are also the reason for the Colorado Desert’s dry climate, as they block most of the precipitation brought by weather systems.
Carl Hoerman, born in Germany, emigrated to the United States in 1903, at the age of eighteen. He studied and then worked as an architect in Chicago until 1920, when he built a studio and art gallery in Saugatuck, Michigan. Hoerman, with his wife, Christiana, also an artist, frequently traveled to the West and Southwest where Carl would paint desert, Grand Canyon, and mountain scenes. Later, Hoerman would become known as a “dunes painter,” because of his western Michigan landscapes.
The painting has been removed from its frame, carefully cleaned, and re-stretched. The old varnish has also been removed. Colors have already sharpened and given the landscape greater contrast which adds weight to the mountain background and allows the painting to be more dynamic. Addressing the tear and the spots of paint loss are forthcoming. Stay tuned for more . . .
Old varnish removed.
Small white dots mean paint loss.
Five months ago the Charlemont portrait of two boys came into our studio. With restoration complete on the painting and the frame, we delivered the artwork back to the client; happily, with a day when the snow wasn’t too bad. Once we safely carried the painting inside and navigated the staircase, we used new hardware in the wall and on the back of the frame to secure the portrait in place. The accent light was the client’s original, but we managed to help it with some cleaning. In fitting the portrait in the frame we chose an archival option with brass mending plates that are stronger and non-invasive, a much better option than the original mechanism. It’s with these larger jobs that require a diverse set of restoration skills that we get a great sense of joy and heartfelt warmth. We were very happy to be of service.
Regarded as one of Eduard Charlemont’s (1848 – 1906) greatest works, a set of three murals for the Burgtheater, the Austrian National Theater in Vienna, proved hard to find during our research, both in terms of a description and as photographs. In corresponding with the Burgtheater we came by the knowledge that the murals at the end of WWII had unfortunately been lost in a fire. Originally, they hung in the first intermission room. Two depicted scenes from Antiquity, and the third drew inspiration from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which we learned from the surviving sketches that would have been used as guides for painting the mural.
Before & After
Before & After
Iphigenia in Aulis, a play by Euripides.
Apollo and the Muses.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Next phase of the Charlemont portrait came to a completion. Major work was done to suture the tears that acted as large visual impairments. Unfortunately, the larger of the two tears occurred in one of the areas with lighter color tones, the younger boy’s shin. This made it more visible, but it also allowed the restoration to be more transformative.
Between suturing the tears and repairing them with in-filling and in-painting, the portrait was re-stretched to strengthen its foundation. A critical step for improving its longevity. This is also important because of the size of the portrait, which is very large, 57″ x 87.″ Final steps for the frame are currently taking place. We can’t wait to see how it looks with both restored. Stay tuned for more . . .
Since our last post about this painting we have learned the identity of the ship, the Bluenose, as well as the ship in the distance that it’s racing, the Gertrude L. Thebaud. In 1938, W.R. MacAskill actually recorded some of this footage, which the Nova Scotia Archives was kind enough to upload. You can watch it here, runtime is about 5 minutes.
Shellac had originally been used as a varnish for this painting. Over time shellac will become brittle, turn yellow, and attract dirt. A 4-stage cleaning effort was carried out to remove the shellac, clean the painting, and then finally apply a coat of conservation varnish. The original frame was in good condition, and it paired well with the painting so it was kept and touched-up in some of its problems areas, mostly the edges, where we redid the gesso and gilding, and married it to the original.
This painting is a family heirloom that was in a bit of a precarious situation: the linen that was used was a very heavy kind. This gave an advantage to the texture and the feel of the painting, a nice complement to a work of this theme, but unfortunately with heavy linen the paint film is more vulnerable to cracking; and as family heirloom’s tend to get up there in age, this painting had numerous areas in need of in-painting.
Off stretcher bar, uncleaned sharing damage and loss at the bottom portion of picture
Closer view of damage
Close up, no cleaning.
Going onto new linen with Beva-371.
Flattened and just re-stretched.
In-filling and cleaned.
Close up of in-fill.
Loss of paint and gesso in the body of the pheasant.
Close up of tail showing in-filling.
Some in-painting and more cleaning.
Further in-painting. Not quite done.
Cleaned and in-paint complete. No varnish.
Close of in-painting complete.
Close of in-painting complete.
Close of in-painting complete.
In-filled and some in-painting.
Complete with varnish.
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.
Adhesive, heat and pressure in the center shares the cracks being laid down
Signature with varnish bleed thru in a crack
Dutch Method in process
Heat and pressure with Beva allows us to stabilize the cracks in the Colbalt Violet area
Smith off stretcher bars
Pulling out the painting to bring cotton duck into pre-shrinkage
Pulling out linen extensions
sutures system on reverse
Flatten and cleaned
Cobalt Violet area stabilized
In new Mahogany with white gold face
Finished and hung back in home
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.
Extensive efforts to carefully surface clean the portrait, as well as the efforts to stabilize the tears are captured in the photographs below. This is a large painting, roughly 57″ x 87,″ and by removing the top layers of varnish, that had darkened, the paint surface has lightened in color and gained a greater degree of contrast. This helps make the brighter colors pop, and in the darker background areas, it adds more clarity, form, and structure. Stay tuned for more . . .
This painting by Hunter Wood (1908 – 1948) was on a stretcher that was too small and caused the canvas to bulge. Over time this tension cracked the paint film. Fungal invasions had occurred along the surface, most noticeably on the right half. They appear as little black specks and are rather noticeable in a work that is predominantly blue. Restoration will address these two issues as well as apply fresh conservation varnish and touch-up the frame. Stay tuned for more. . .
Hunter Wood was born in 1908 in Babylon, Long Island, New York. Sailing and painting were in his blood; his great grandfather, John L. Worden was commander of the Monitor in its battle against the Merrimac in the Civil War, and Hunter’s father, Worden Wood, was a successful marine painter and sailor who served aboard the Clipper “Yankee” in the Spanish-American War and also in World War I. Worden’s artwork touched the lives of many due to its wide circulation, including paintings on postcards, pen & ink drawings on magazine covers such as Yachting, and some children’s book illustrations. Worden married a silent movie star (one of the Florodora girls), but they divorced in 1911 when Hunter was very young.
After a brief formal education Hunter left school and joined the New York Merchant Marines. He trained aboard a ship called the Newport before earning the rating of coxswain of the Captain’s personal boat. By the time he was 25, Hunter was sailing as quartermaster for several large shipping companies. During this time he also illustrated for several firms: the United States Lines, the French Line, the Macmillian Company, and the former United States Shipping Board. He was also on the staff of The World and The New York Herald in New York and The Boston Herald. He was a member of the 7th Regiment N. Y. N. G, and was known for meticulously making sure the rigging and proportions were accurate in his works. He died in 1948.
Angled shot to highlight cracking on right edge due to small stretcher bar.
Vertical cracks show the cracking.
These works come from two of the more prominent female Irish artists, especially in terms of abstract art, Mainie Jellett (1897 – 1944) and Evie Hone (1894 – 1955). They met while studying at Westminster School of Art, and in 1923 together they staged one of the first abstract painting exhibitions in Ireland, taking place at the Society of Dublin Painters. The initial response from the critics was not too favorable, as they cited a lack of “representational art,” but over time their judgements softened, and eventually they commended Jellett as an important artistic bridge between European and Irish art. In 1926 at the Dublin Radical Club, WB Yeats opened one of her exhibitions. She continued to show, including abroad at Paris, Versailles, Brussels, London, and Amsterdam. And Hone would continue her abstract creations into the 1940s when she then transitioned to stained glass art and created one her more famous works, Crucifixion and Last Supper windows for the Eton Chapel in Windsor.
Ater a close inspection, on the reverse of the Jellett painting, a patch was found from a previous restoration. The work also suffers from expansion and contraction, as well as a dirt contaminate layer, which is not too surprising as the paint film has a great “texture” quality to it. The Hone painting has issues of cupping, where the canvas has contracted faster than the paint film, causing the paint to lift. These areas will be consolidated and the painting as a whole will be carefully cleaned. Stay tuned for more . . .