Photograph of Mrs. Dean

This photograph of a Grand Rapids resident, Mrs. Dean, had been stored in the attic of her home. After the home changed hands, the new homeowners discovered this photograph, fell in love with it, and brought it in for restoration.

The photograph’s composition was very dry, the result of no AC in the attic, and there were surface contaminates across the front, the painting and frame had actually been under soot. Despite this situation, the photograph was in remarkable shape.

Micro-vacuuming and a feather duster cleaned the photograph surface and removed the dry particles. About half of the frame’s ornamentation had been lost, and the remaining half was very dry and close to falling off. With casts and molds, the lost ornamentation was replaced. Clays and gilding resurfaced the entire frame and dirty shellac was added to match the old and the new. The original, antique glass was conserved.

TALLMADGE AND WATSON ARCHITECT SKETCH FINISHED

This first edition sketch by Tallmadge and Watson Architects of the Saugatuck Woman’s Club is ready to be returned. Chemistry baths lifted the stains that came from acid contamination, of which there was quite a bit. Besides the stains, there was widespread mold invasion. Another round of chemistry baths neutralized these. Careful cleaning across the surface removed dirt contaminates and returned a clarity to the image.

The frame is original, and what’s typical of this period, for architect sketches, is to use a gilded, natural-wood frame. After cleaning, we saw that in the recesses, the frame did at one time have this aesthetic. Once cleaning was complete, we returned this finish in the period standard. To finish, UV-filtering glass was added to help protect this lovely piece of local history that we were very grateful to be able to work on.

In 1905 Thomas Tallmadge decided to start his own architectural firm with draftsman Vernon S. Watson. Although Watson was the chief designer, Tallmadge became the face of the firm due to his commitment as a historian and teacher. He taught at the Armour Institute of Technology from 1906 to 1926. Tallmadge is credited for coining the term “Chicago school” in an article for Architectural Review to describe the recent trends in architecture pioneered by Burnham, Louis Sullivan, and others. Tallmadge took sole control over the firm after Watson retired in 1936. They were best known for their Prairie School works.

Marriage Certificate Renewal

We believe, like many documents of the early 1900s, this marriage certificate was probably rolled up and placed in a tube for safekeeping. Some time later, when it was taken out, in a likely low humidity environment, the unrolling was enough to crack the paper in several places. At that time Scotch tape was used to repair it, and the problem there is that Scotch tape is laden with acidic compounds, particularly old Scotch tape. Around the perimeter you can notice a darker color. This was likely caused by a previous frame that it might have been in and the discoloration would have come from the acidic components in the frame. Further color distortion can be see in the rest of the document: the widespread lightened tones are due to sun shock.

Careful scalpel work and chemical softeners removed the Scotch tape residue. With several rounds of chemical baths we were able to treat the acid staining. Next we in-filled with paper of a similar condition, and gave it a new backing to help flatten it.Along the cracks, in-painting concealed the lost areas, and the faded writing was touched-up to return its original strength and weight.

ADOLF DEHN CENTRAL PARK WATERCOLOR FINISHED

Substantial staining and several drips troubled this Central Park snowscape. With the proper treatment and stain removal the discoloration disappeared. This treatment greatly improved the color dynamics, which is one of the rewarding treats we typically find when working on a snowscape. These new, softer color tones were accented with a custom Modernist Marin 258 frame.

Adolf Dehn (1895-1968) was born in Waterville, Minnesota. He began creating artwork at the age of 6. His student and early professional life began with a dedicated pursuit of black and white topics as a natural and expressive watercolorist. By 1920, after formal training as an illustrator and lithographer, he began to create ink drawings and lithographs, the sales of which supported him though the depression.

In the early 1920’s, Dehn moved to Europe, and developed his imagery of cabaret, park scenes, burlesque, and European landscapes of the roaring 20’s. He returned to the Midwest during the depression and by 1936 he started to work in the watercolor medium. He discovered a fondness for its characteristics of finish, fluidity, and adaptability for effects that could be either deliberate or spontaneous.

It seems watercolors also agreed with Dehn’s open, effusive, and passionate character. During the 30’s and 40’s, his favorite subjects were Midwest and Northeast farmscapes. His eventual home of New York City also became a frequent subject matter as he captured the essence of the city’s burlesque, Central Park, Harlem nightclubs, industrial yards, and areas of high society.

He died in New York City in May 1968, and left behind a vast body of lithographs, watercolors, drawings and prints, which are in the permanent collections of nearly 100 museums across the United States and Europe.

 

Mathias Alten Watercolor

This watercolor came in attached to a cardboard mount that was completely wood-based pulp. It had contaminated the work with acid burning causing the overall look of the piece to be a dark brown. We carefully soaked the painting and slowly removed it from the mount while wet. We then put it through a series of purified water baths to extricate as much of the acid stains as possible; this was done without any chemistry so as to protect the watercolor. We then added a couple of baths with chemistry through the reverse of the picture to remove more of the acid stains.

There were three tears in the watercolor; two of which were at the corners due to stress and the brittleness of the acid degradation, while the third tear was also near the edge and looked to have been caused by the artist. Blotters were used to flatten and dry the watercolor, and then further de-acidification solution was applied, this time a non-aqueous type. We then tissue-mounted the work to 8-ply museum board, before another round of de-acidification, this time through the face. In-painting was conducted where there had been some loss of watercolor. Stay tuned for more as we prepare a custom American Modernist 5″ wide frame with light antique gold over yellow and black clay.

Born in Gusenburg, Germany, Mathias Alten (1871–1938) is hailed as the foremost painter of Grand Rapids, Michigan and a second-generation Impressionist whose primary theme was agrarian labor. He was apprenticed to Joseph Klein, a decorative painter in Saint Wendel, Germany and worked on ceiling and wall decorations for churches and theaters.

At 17, he emigrated to Grand Rapids, Michigan, which was a major manufacturing center and vital art community. He studied with Edwin A. Turner and first exhibited his work at the Michigan State Fair in 1896.  Some of his earliest works are floral stilllife, a theme to which he continued to return; he also did figure and portrait painting, but his landscapes defined the direction of his work.

In 1898, he went to France and settled in Paris after spending time painting fishing scenes in Etaples, an artists’ colony on the French coast. He studied at the Academie Julian with Benjamin Constant and Jean-Paul Laurens and won a gold metal for the best figure drawing. Interested in animal drawing, he attended classes at the veterinary school and then traveled extensively throughout France and Italy and other parts of Europe.

Returning to Grand Rapids, he and Constant Fliermans opened a studio and art school together, and then on his own he pursued an active career as a a portrait and figure painter, and also did numerous murals. His figure paintings were unusual for that time because they were not elegant subjects but working class people straining their muscles.

From 1902, after spending time at the Old Lyme, Connecticut art colony, he became increasingly devoted to plein air rural landscape painting with sparkling sunlight and colors of Impressionism. In 1910, he traveled abroad for a year, doing many rural scenes of Holland, and in New York, he saw paintings by and was much influenced by the Spanish Impressionist Joaquin Sorolla whose work became a lasting influence in subject matter and a palette that was more colorful and sunlit than his previous work. In 1912, he traveled in Spain, and much of his work from that time reflected Spanish subjects.

To escape the harsh winters he made trips to southern California in 1929 and 1933-34. His good friend Norman Chamberlain had settled in Laguna Beach. While visiting there he was active with the local art colony and painted coastal scenes and a series of missions. He achieved success in Los Angeles due to his daughter’s promotion of his works.

He died in Michigan on March 8, 1938.

A Couple of Works by W.E. Baum

This pair of W.E. Baum (1884 – 1956) artworks came into the studio recently. The first is an oil painting depicting the view from his studio. The second is a landscape from a place he knew well, Sellersville, Pennsylvania.

On the oil painting there have been a few areas of loss, and the canvas has cupped due to the moisture let in by the frame. The typical dirt contaminates also plague the surface of this artwork. In-fill and in-painting will restore the areas of loss, and deep cleaning with remove the dirt contaminate. To stabilize the canvas it will be placed on a honeycomb panel. This will have the added benefit of undoing the cupping so it can remain flat. Its frame is a 19th Century frame. There are some areas of loss and they will be addressed through new casting.

The pastel was done on a board, and it is possible that there was also paper involved, but further investigation will be needed to determine that. However, the board contains acids that have migrated to the pastel and are degrading it at the cellular level through chemical burns. We also suspect that the acids are causing staining, but that the pastels are covering it. In some places the pastel has started to flake, which is largely due to its age. Consolidation will return it to a consistent plane. The board will be deacidified, and if we find that there is paper, it will also be deacidified and then placed on new, archival board. This pastel came in a art nouveau frame that lacks the depth needed to keep the pastel from the glass–this has caused some pastel loss in the past. To fix this, a back-up will be given to the frame, and UV-filtering glass will replace the original glass.

Stay tuned for more…

Walter Emerson Baum, the second of five children, was born in Sellersville, Pennsylvania on December 14, 1884. His family was known for musical talents, but he studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and later received an honorary degree from Lehigh University.

Baum was a prolific artist who exhibited in over one-hundred fifty museum exhibitions and received over thirty major awards. Baum gained nationwide recognition when he won the prestigious Sesnan Gold Medal in 1925 at the Pennsylvania Academy of Art Annual. Later he won the Zabriskie Prize in 1945 from the American Watercolor Society and the Medal of Honor in 1953 from the National Arts Club.

He is considered the “father of art in the Lehigh Valley,” and he wrote extensively on the subject for the Sellersville Herald, the Doylestown Intelligence and the Allentown Evening Chronicle. He also lent his expertise and criticism to the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin and the Philadelphia Sunday Bulletin serving as art editor and critic for both as well as for the publication, Two Hundred Years, a study of the Pennsylvania Germans and their heritage.

His dedication to the improvement and preservation of art culminated with his founding of the Lehigh Art Alliance and the co-founding of the Allentown Art Museum. Between 1918 and 1926, Baum taught art classes at his home in Sellersville. After a student suggested that he offer summer art classes in Allentown, Baum founded his own school of art in 1929.

Besides directing the Baum School of Art, Baum worked as the first director of the Allentown Art Museum and amassed a major regional art collection of the period. In June of 1956, Baum retired as director of the Baum School and the Allentown Art Museum. Later that month he wrote his last column for the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin. Shortly thereafter, on July 12, 1956, he died of a heart attack.

17th Century Drawing Finished

This 17th Century drawing was one of the longer jobs we’ve had, and we knew this would be the case as the amount of work would be extensive, and we would also need to make some important design decisions.

Areas of loss in the paper and smaller pinhole-sized holes were prevalent across the artwork. On the reverse some asphaltum was adhered, which is a type of tar. Stains had developed and acid contaminates had migrated into the paper.

Chemical baths lifted the stains and neutralized the acid contaminates. Another chemical was used to soften the asphaltum which was then carefully scraped with a scalpel, and then another chemical helped to treat the underlying stains. New paper pulp to fill the lost areas was made and incorporated with water that self-adhered to the rice paper quality of the original.

The new frame we made is a custom Sienese Italian with granito and raised gesso-corners with a feather motif and matching spandrel. We noticed in the cap that there’s a feather, and we brought that decoration into the corners. The granito can be seen around the feathers as the small dots.

Restoration started back in March and we are particularly satisfied with the culmination of what was months of slow progress. As the various aspects matured the anticipation kind of teased us with how they would eventually look together. But when they finally did come together we were thrilled with how the frame and spandrel appear to be the same period as the drawing, and how there’s a shared elegant quality that is still inviting in an introspective, personal sort of way.

Adolf Dehn Central Park Watercolor

Substantial staining and several drips trouble this Central Park snowscape. With the proper treatment and stain removal the discoloration will disappear. This is going to greatly improve the color dynamics, as this is predominately a black and white watercolor. The color tones will also be accentuated with a custom white gold frame done in the Modernist Marin style. Stay tuned for finished photographs…

Adolf Dehn (1895-1968) was born in Waterville, Minnesota. He began creating artwork at the age of 6. His student and early professional life began with a dedicated pursuit of black and white topics as a natural and expressive watercolorist. By 1920, after formal training as an illustrator and lithographer, he began to create ink drawings and lithographs, the sales of which supported him though the depression.

In the early 1920’s, Dehn moved to Europe, and developed his imagery of cabaret, park scenes, burlesque, and European landscapes of the roaring 20’s. He returned to the Midwest during the depression and by 1936 he started to work in the watercolor medium. He discovered a fondness for its characteristics of finish, fluidity, and adaptability for effects that could be either deliberate or spontaneous.

It seems watercolors also agreed with Dehn’s open, effusive, and passionate character. During the 30’s and 40’s, his favorite subjects were Midwest and Northeast farmscapes. His eventual home of New York City also became a frequent subject matter as he captured the essence of the city’s burlesque, Central Park, Harlem nightclubs, industrial yards, and areas of high society.

He died in New York City in May 1968, and left behind a vast body of lithographs, watercolors, drawings and prints, which are in the permanent collections of nearly 100 museums across the United States and Europe.

 

4 Prints of American Historical Significance

Discoloration caused by dirt and acid contamination was a common theme for these four prints. Around the edge, tears were also problematic. Through a bevy of chemical baths and careful cleaning we were able to neutralize the acid components as well as lift a substantial amount of dirt particulates. For the tears we incorporated new paper of a similar quality to the original. Due to the thinness of the prints, and the susceptibility of the edges to tear, we archivally placed them on tissue paper to strengthen the backing.

 

Tallmadge and Watson Architect Sketch

This first edition sketch by Tallmadge and Watson Architects of the Saugatuck Woman’s Club just came in. It’s a wonderful piece of history and has great cultural significance for the area. As the photographs detail, a piece plywood had been fitted to the back, and this introduced a substantial amount of acid contaminates.

After de-fitting the sketch was rather smelly and we promptly placed it in a chemistry bath. Along the edges you can see the dark brown color caused by wood exposure on the back plus the rabbets on the side. Even the grain of the plywood has been acid-burned into the back of the paper. The frame is rather dirty, but it is cleaning up nicely.

In 1905 Thomas Tallmadge decided to start his own architectural firm with draftsman Vernon S. Watson. Although Watson was the chief designer, Tallmadge became the face of the firm due to his commitment as a historian and teacher. He taught at the Armour Institute of Technology from 1906 to 1926. Tallmadge is credited for coining the term “Chicago school” in an article for Architectural Review to describe the recent trends in architecture pioneered by Burnham, Louis Sullivan, and others. Tallmadge took sole control over the firm after Watson retired in 1936. They were best known for their Prairie School works.