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.

R. Turner Watercolor Restoration and New Frame

This watercolor had been greatly effected by acid burns and other invasive contaminates. Tape was also adhered along the edges, leading to acid contamination. Deep cleaning treated the stains and chemistry baths lifted the acids. Sun damage was addressed by refreshening the watercolor. New museum mat and UV-protecting glass was given to a new custom frame, which we are quite pleased with and think it deserves its own paragraph.

A brand new design with a Spanish reverse slope and basket woven corners and sgraffito in gesso. Two tones of gold were incorporated, silver and regular. We are greatly pleased with how this new design turned out, and with how well it compliments the artwork.

Alice L. Williams Watercolor Repairs

Once we carefully removed this Alice L. Williams (mid 20th century) watercolor from its mount we discovered a pair of significant tears. To the reverse we added new paper, of a similar composition, and then in-painted on the front. These tears had not been visible while the watercolor was on its mount, which offers some explanation as to why it was used. We’ve replaced it with a museum rag mount that will not introduce acid contamination like its predecessor. The watercolor also underwent chemistries baths, to remove acids and molds, and was then blotted dry. Special thanks to Sarah Harris of The Nines who will frame this work for the Ox-Bow Summer Benefit, that takes place on Saturday, July 7.

Alice L. Williams was a member of Ox-Bow, having followed her mother’s footsteps, Olive, who built the Mary K cottage at Ox-bow in the 1920s. The local legend is that this cottage has a reputation for ghosts, missing tools, moved equipment, and flickering lights.

Hobbe Smith Watercolor

This charming and exquisite watercolor came in with extreme acid burns. With the help of Dr. Jacob E. Nyenhuis we were able to identity the signature as Hobbe Smith (1862-1942). After careful removal from the mat and taping, a targeted chemistry baths lifted the acid stains. The watercolor was then allowed to dry flat which returned a crispness to the paper. The clarity of the cleaning will help us determine the style and color for a new frame. Stay tuned for more . . .

Hobbe Smith was the son of a house painter. His first formal art instruction came while he was an apprentice to a lithographer and continued as a member of Quellinusschool, an Amsterdam school for sculptors named after the Quellinus family and founded in 1877. Due to a wealthy patron who admired his work, he received a Royal Scholarship and studied at Rijksakadmie with August Allebe, a major promoter of Amsterdam Impressionism, a style Smith would adopt.

He continued his studying at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp with Charles Verlat. His subject matter included nudes, still life, portraits, historical scenes, sea- river- and town-views. In 1888, he won the Willink van Collenprijs, and received international notoriety after an exhibition at the Pulchri Studio in 1902. A gold medal recipient from Queen Wilhelmina in 1917, he was also a member of Arti et Amicitiae and Sint Lucas.

Alice L. Williams Watercolor

This Alice L. Williams (mid 20th century) watercolor came to us in rather rough shape. Extensive foxing has degraded the paper enough to make holes. Also, major acid contamination occurred from the wood pulp board the watercolor was placed on.

Alice L. Williams was a member of Ox-Bow, following in her mother’s footsteps, Olive, who built the Mary K cottage at Ox-bow in the 1920s. The local legend is that this cottage has a bit of a reputation for ghosts, missing tools, moved equipment, and flickering lights.

Restoration began with the careful removal of the watercolor from its mount. Further stages to come will include de-acidification and the mending of the tears. This restoration is in preparation for the Ox-Bow Summer Benefit, that takes place on Saturday, July 7.  

Peter Max Drawing

This black and white Peter Max (1937-) drawing had fungal and acid invasions, staining, and old tape adhered to it, all of which caused discoloration. A series of three chemistry baths treated these issues and helped bring out the brilliant ink lines that can appear simple when done with the hand of someone talented.

Peter Max was born in Berlin but his family moved to China when he was still very young. They lived in a pagoda-style house amidst a Buddhist monastery, a Sikh temple and a Viennese cafe. From American comic books, radio broadcasts and cinema shows, young Max formed an impression of the land of Captain Marvel, Flash Gordon, swing jazz, swashbucklers, freedom and creativity. Ten years later the family made what turned what would turn out to be a slow westerly migration that ended up in the New York City, taking 6 years, and including stops in Nepal, Israel, and Paris.

Max trained at the Art Students League, Pratt Institute, and the School of Visual Arts, all in New York. After closing his design studio in 1964, Peter began creating his characteristic paintings and graphic prints.

As the ’60s progressed, his photo collage style gave way to his “Cosmic ’60s” style, characterized by distinctive line work and bold Fauvistic color combinations. It became his signature style and is said to have developed as a spontaneous creative urge following a meeting with Swami Satchidananda, an Indian Yoga master who taught Max meditation and the spiritual teachings of the East.

His unique symbolism and vibrant color palette have continued to inspire new generations of Americans throughout the decades. He is also a passionate environmentalist and defender of human and animal rights, often dedicating paintings and posters for these noteworthy causes. His decorative designs are on a Boeing 777 Continental, Dale Earnhardt’s #3 Millennium race car, U.S. postage stamps and 235 U.S. border murals. He created two 155-foot murals for the U.S. Pavilion at the Seville World’s Fair in Spain, 12 postage stamps for the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and a 600-foot stage mural for Woodstock 2. He has also painted for five U.S. presidents, as well as the Beatles, Aerosmith, and the Rolling Stones.

After September 11th, 2001 Peter Max began a project by finishing 356 portraits of the firefighters that were lost in the attack. His portraits were then given to the victims’ families. In addition, from a special request from President George W. Bush, he recently created another 356 portraits for a firefighters’ memorial.

He loves to hear amazing facts about the universe and is as fascinated with numbers and mathematics as he is with visual phenomena.

“If I didn’t choose art, I would have become an astronomer. . . I [am] fascinated with the vast distances in space as well as the vast world within the atom.”