Cora Bliss Taylor Floral

This oil painting suffers from paint loss and surface contaminates. Early cleaning tests have revealed the underlying color tones to be much brighter than what’s shown in its current state.

We would like to extend a sincere thank you to the Saugatuck Woman’s Club and the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society for hosting our lecture yesterday evening. It was a great experience to share our restoration abilities and what effects they can have on artwork, and the response we received was truly overwhelming. We strongly believe in community outreach and broadening culture, and we feel very fortunate for the opportunity we were given.

Cora Bliss Taylor was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on April 14, 1889. Her father was a veteran of the Civil War and passed away when she was 1 years old. During her childhood, the family traveled around the United States, and France when she was 11 years old, which is where she received her first art lessons.

Cora visited Saugatuck, Michigan, which was to become her home, on her honeymoon in 1914, with her husband, James W. Taylor, a Chicago attorney. She studied painting at the Art Institute of Chicago with Leon Kroll and Leopold Seyffert; Charles W. Hawthorne, Provincetown, Massachusetts; Andre L. Hote in Paris; Morris Kantor, Art Students League, New York; and Vance Kirkland, Denver University. She was a contemporary of Georgia O’Keefe.

Mrs. Taylor won the Chicago Woman’s Aid Prize, Edward B. Butler Prize, and Fine Arts Building Prize from the Art Institute of Chicago where she exhibited a number of times. She also was accepted for a number of exhibitions at the Detroit Museum of Arts and won several prizes, including the American Association of University Women’s prize for her watercolor, “Abandoned”. In 1945, she won Honorable Mention for a painting exhibited at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. She exhibited at the Chicago Galleries Association and other private galleries. Cora was a member of the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts and Letters, and is listed in the original edition of “Who’s Who of American Women”.

In 1931, she founded the Taylor Art School on Holland Street in Saugatuck, a summer art school, with visiting instructors. The Taylor Art Gallery attracted 2,000 visitors who signed the guest register that first year. In 1931, as Art Director of the Saugatuck Chamber of Commerce, she was instrumental in attracting many Chicago people to the Saugatuck area. Mrs. Taylor continued to teach painting for many years, specializing in children. Quite a few of her students went on to make a career in art.

Her paintings are hanging at Hope College, Holland, Michigan; Saugatuck Masonic Lodge, Chicago Public Schools, a number of Women’s clubs, Emerson Unitarian Church, Houston, Texas; Sheridan Public Schools, Sheridan, Texas; and many private homes in Chicago, Western Michigan, and other areas of the country.

Cora Bliss Taylor passed away at the age of 97 on April 21, 1986.


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.

Dajou Oil Painting

Dajou was a French painter born in the 19th Century. This painting is a self-portait with two onlooking friends, and it has a strong resemblance to one of Dajou’s popular works, The Connoisseurs. This is a wonderful piece of art with the incredible detail of the paintings hanging on the back wall, the varied poses of the onlookers, the intricate design in the wood floor. The work is dated 1879, but the odd thing is that the attire of the onlookers predates this by about a century. Both the frame and the painting will be restored. Stay tuned for more. . .

William Wilson Cowell Nautical Painting

It’s been a long journey for this nautical painting by William Wilson Cowell (1819-1898). First, yellowed varnish was removed to reveal impressive and rich blue tones. Upon further investigation, we realized there was a hole in the top right portion of the painting, and that the varnish had been used a concealer.  A previous attempt to repair the hole had used an in-fill substance that is a bit hard and not as pliable as other substances that could be used. We had to remove the old in-fill, along with other contaminates on the paint surface, before in-filling correctly and in-painting to match the original colors. Finally, a new coat of conservation varnish was applied.

The original frame, in the Art Noueveau style, was a great artistic complement to the painting. We removed surface contaminates and a fungus invasion, as well as added a back-up to allow needed breathing room for the painting to sit free of the frame.

Hoerman Kalamazoo River Overlooking Ox Bow

In this painting, Carl Hoerman (1885 – 1955) captured a spot along the Kalamazoo River overlooking Ox Bo, which actually turned out to be the view from his studio. It is a large painting, 43″ x 50,” and unfortunately is incredibly threadbare. In addition there are two gashes in the top right corner, one of which is substantial. The decomposition of the linen was probably due to environmental factors, most likely exposure to prolonged heat. These factors compromised the already low thread count linen, which was further taxed by the large size of this artwork. In its present condition, the painting is very susceptible to further tearing.

Restoration will add a strong foundation to the linen reverse, and the tears will be sutured, enclosed, and in-painted where any loss occurred. The period frame, an excellent example of mid century American Impressionist style, will be refurbished to once again show off this fine painting to great advantage.

Cowell Nautical

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.

Abstract Composition in Yellow and Red by Evie Hone

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 . . .