Frances H. Norris Streit Small Town in Winter

This oil on canvas by Frances H Norris Streit suffers from water damage and a thick contamination of surface dirt, which happened to be petroleum-based. The dirt causes the color of the paint film to appear much darker than it is. Laborious efforts have been underway, using three different chemical solutions to carefully lift the dirt. This process is having such a profound effect that we wanted to share it with you.

Frances Hammond Norris Streit (1918 – 1997) was born in Fulton County, Indiana and died in Long Island, New York. She schooled at the Heron Institute of Art in Indianapolis, IN, receiving a BFA, and furthered her education at the State University of Iowa. Before WWII she worked under the name Frances H. Norris, exhibiting at the Carnegie Institute and the Hoosier Salon. Included in Artists of the Hoosier Salon index as Frances Norris, Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the East, Lauter’s Indiana Artists, and Davenport’s. By WWII she had married and was working in New York as Frances N. Streit and Frances Norris Streit where she specialized in late period murals. She painted the official portrait of Indiana Governor George N. Craig.

Victorian Landscape

This oil painting by an unknown artist is a strong example of a Victorian landscape. A thatched roof with plenty of character and too unruly for straight lines. A modest mother and child, off-center and not interested in being the focus of attention. The unhitched wagon, the open front door, the sense of daily activities ongoing, and the closeness of the house, clipped by the left and right margin, gives an intimate yet homely perspective.

The work is old, dating back to pre-1900s, and the artist used a prepared board with gesso, which unfortunately cracked with water damage and in some places broke away. The first step was to stabilize and clean the board, and then in-fill where part of gesso had been lost. Topical repairs were then carried out with in-painting and consolidation of the surface. Restoration concluded with a custom Dutch frame with a high front and dark panel.

Pictures in Pictures

A fundamental principle of landscape painting is scene composition. Over the course of several months, while we have tackled the Olendorf (1924-1996) collection, there is a trait of his work that we have been enamored by. Pictures in pictures might be the best way to describe it. We wanted to offer a case study.

In this picture you’ll notice dynamic contrast. This is achieved through the opposing colors of the principle elements: the two cars, the white building, the brown horse, the flecks of brown and yellow flowers on the second floor balcony. This a rich and dynamic scene.

Scanning to the other side of the landscape you’ll see the same red car, but now there’s a pink car tucked behind a pair of trees. With only one person in this picture it’s as if the time of day has completely changed, and things are much quieter and much slower.

Pull back a little to this picture and you’ll see the building in full view, along with the people, and a touch of blue sky. But the focal point, where the color has the most emphasis, becomes the red car. From it there is a strong vertical line going straight up to the flag, the apex of the roof, and the blue sky. A height is given to man, his achievements, and his direction. And it is balanced by the natural growth of the trees framing the left third. The theme of man versus nature is at its strongest in this picture.

Now pull back to the full image and suddenly the dirt foreground and the presence of the horse completely change the dynamics. From a forrest, man has etched out a little trade store, and this transition period is still underscored by the different transportation modes: the cars and the horse. The emphasis of the red car drops a bit with the inclusion of the horse, and what you’re left with is something that is not yet defined, something in flux and change. You have an oasis. A little reprieve. Something off the beaten path. Something unique. Something with the charm of Olendorf.

Olendorf Zoagli Cinque Terre

Lush color and tall architecture are hallmarks of the Olendorf style (1924-1996) that here take the form of Zoagli, a commune in the province of Genoa. Known for tourism, Zoagli is near the Cinque Terre region which translates to “Five Lands” and offers small yet dramatic coastal towns, a year-round pleasing climate, and beautiful landscapes, traits that led to its inclusion in the Unesco World Heritage list. Not until the 19th century, when rail and roads connected Zoagli, did it bloom into a tourist spot, first attracting the Swiss and English. Unfortunately it was the site of WWII bombing raids that destroyed the center of the town but was then rebuilt and named “XXVII December” in honor of the first raid. Further back in its history, it was infamously pillaged by Saracen pirates led by the famed Dragut, who one French admiral described as “a living chart of the Mediterranean.” In response, Zoagli constructed a pair of towers to bolster its defenses. They continue to stand and were recently restored. One belongs to the Genoese Patrician Villas, and the other belongs to City Hall which can be used to hold marriage ceremonies.

Tour Boat on the Seine by Tomlice

This wonderful painting by R. Tomlice from 1963 suffered from paint loss and a varnish that had streaked in areas which was the result of flood damage. Through restoration we carefully removed the varnish as well as deacidified it to mitigate a mold invasion. A custom Italian Florentine frame in gold was built and the artwork was then archivally placed inside it. We are very happy with the frame style and color, and how well it compliments the painting.

The Seine stretches 483 miles and connects the Paris basin to Le Havre, a major port in the Normandy region. “Seine” comes from Sequana, who was the Gallo-Roman goddess of the river. Due to the Seine’s central location within Paris, tour boats are able to pass along the Left Bank, Right Bank, Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, Louvre Museum, Orsay Museum, and Les Invalides, the burial site for Napoleon, as well as other attractions.

A Modern Take on the Cassetta Frame

With the Renaissance causing an emergence of secular art subjects, there was a need for a new frame style, one that was different from the religious, Tabernacle style. The specific need was to diverge from the elaborate and imposing style of religious frames, which mimicked, on the small scale, Gothic architecture, and head toward a style that was more organized and refined. Cassetta translates to “little box,” and its meaning is reflected in the frame’s appearance: four straight sides with an entablature formate. The other fundamental shift was the change in how the frame related to the work. The Tabernacle frame had sought to be an extension of the artwork while the Cassetta frame tried to emphasize the artwork.

Due to its simplistic nature, the Cassetta frame is very versatile, and one that were were able to modernize in a symbiotic way to three distinct oil paintings by Bill Olendorf (1924-1996). Each custom frame received gilding, and also, to match the frame to the artwork, the panel was painted with the same temperature of color included in the artwork. These works were also plagued by a substantial invasion of mold, and required quite a bit of cleaning.

The Color Choices of Olendorf

Olendorf (1924-1996) studied architecture and design while at Harvard. For picture making, this gave him a firm command of distinct lines and the monochrome color palette, but he would find a far more complex problem when he transitioned to oil painting.

The 19th and 20th century were a volatile time for art theory. Impressionist painters, aided by scientific thought, realized that the color perceived by the eye and the color understood by the brain were two different things. Impressionists aimed to capture the former. One method they used was called broken color, where shades of a color were painted without blending them; this led to the early critique of impressionist works as “unfinished.” Nonetheless, their aim was to enrich the color’s vitality and to give it the actual sensation of light. Neo-impressionism took this approach further and focused more on the analytical theory and division of color and vision. The results of this were techniques like pointillism and divisionism. The next movement was fauvism, which took a radical approach to color choice, and made choices favoring the mood they wanted to portray, not the color you would find represented by the natural world. A great example of this, and to see how far it could be pushed, is Blue Horses by Franz Marc.

As Olendorf developed as an artist, you can clearly see he borrowed from impressionism and fauvism. He created a realism that focused on intense color and a playful palette. The fields in the vineyard are the most impressionist of this group, while the intense color fields in the boat relate to fauvism. This diversity and technical ability is one of the qualities we really like about Olendorf.

Olendorf: French Patio Garden

From the well-travelled artist, Bill Olendorf (1924-1996), this oil painting of a French patio garden was restored from flood damage, and placed in a custom Spanish reverse frame with regular gold. We are very fond of the flowers, their abundance and rich colors, and how the work just seems to say “Summer!”

Olendorf: Vezelay finished and framed

Bill Olendorf (1924-1996) oil painting of Vezelay was fully restored and placed in a custom Spanish reverse frame with regular gold. Initial restoration efforts were captured in an earlier post Olendorf Vezelay.

Vézelay is a commune in the Yonne department in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté in north-central France. It is a defendable hill town famous for Vézelay Abbey. The town and the famous 11th century Romanesque Basilica of St Magdalene are designated UNESCO World Heritage sites.