A new handmade Dutch frame modernized with simplified lines but with 17th Century proportion and manufacturing style. The wood is mahogany with a walnut feel, and the liner was done in white gold and includes a gauche.
Extensive varnish removal for this William Wilson Cowell (1819-1898) oil painting revealed a hidden hole in the top right corner. The varnish was likely a ploy to hide this damage. Restoration will finish with in-painting, and treating the frame for a mold invasion. Stay tuned for more . . .
William Wilson Cowell was primarily an East Coast artist who also was known to paint in the Great Lakes area, and in Nova Scotia, Canada during the later years of his life. He trained in Europe in the 1840’s and upon his return to America, he studied marine painting with Edward Moran and J. Faulkner at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art.
Exhibitions of his work at the Brooklyn Art Association, Pennsylvania Academy, and Art Institute of Chicago are noted. Like many other artists, the works of A.T. Bricher and F.A. Silva from of the Luminist school influenced William Wilson Cowell. Combining the teachings of Ruskin with the influence of the Luminist he was able to compose wonderful, light-brimming expressions of nature.
A dry foundational linen had caused cupping issues in the paint film of this abstract oil on canvas by Evie Hone (1894 – 1955). The old wax reline was removed, and the original linen was hydrated, to make it pliable and supple, and then doubled with a stronger linen using a restorer’s adhesive. This gave the painting a strong and resilient base that allowed us to then take care of the topical issues, namely the cupping, dirt contamination, and old in-painting.
With heat and pressure we were able to consolidate the cupping, laying it flat with the surface, and after several cotton tips we were able to clean the surface contaminants and help bring out the original color, an important characteristic for an abstract painting such as this one. In the few areas where cupping resulted in paint loss we applied new pigments, matching to the original. At this time we also corrected some old in-painting by removing it and then using proper technique to redo it. The original varnish was old and had yellowed. It was removed and then the painting was given a final coat of new conservation varnish.
Stay tuned for the fitting in its new handmade Modernist frame with Cubist elements in beech wood, painted to match the original . . .
This abstract oil on canvas by Mainie Jellett (1897 – 1944) suffers from expansion and contraction, a layer of dirt contamination, which is derived from its great “texture” quality, and on the reverse, a patch from a previous restoration. Careful cleaning had to be carried out in a slower manner due to the texture of the artwork and its susceptibility to lifting even with cotton tips. A rolling technique was used instead of a swirling technique. This was a slower process but the amount of contamination we were able to remove was quite staggering. The original linen was a burlap linen fabric that was severely compromised and ready to fall apart. Consolidation was done to halt the deterioration, and then re-lining with new Belgian linen provided greater strength that will be essential for a painting with as much structure as this one. Around the edges, in-painting was done to conceal the places where the original diamond points held in the liner and caused damage.
Jellett used a two varnish system that depended on the different texture of the artwork. The two types were satin, that gives a shine and makes the colors pop, and matte, that absorbs light and diffuses the color. Using software we carefully labeled which varnish was applied to which texture in order to keep accurate what was intentionally chosen by the artist.
Unfortunately this oil painting had been dropped on a newel post which caused a tear, leaving a circular indent. Threads had not torn completely but had stretched. Weights brought it back into plane and heat helped to bring the threads closer together. Sutures were placed and re-lining was done to give more strength, with final in-fill and in-paint done to conceal the damage. This is a case where you might expect the damage to beyond repair, but we just wanted to show what it possible.
We are very pleased with the restoration so far. Besides removing the old varnish, which lightened the color and can be seen in the Before & After photograph, we addressed the tear. Working on the reverse, we pulled threads back into plane to prepare the surface. Then using a white restorer’s compound, we covered the front and delicately in-painted, matching to the original colors. A few more steps remain in this restoration. Stay tuned for more . . .
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 . . .
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.
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.