Charles Dwyer Portrait of Girl with Custom Frame

This pastel and watercolor came in troubled by a few acid stains and loose pastel. A seal was applied to keep the pastel from moving, and chemistry baths neutralized the stains. Further protection was given by an archival mount and by incorporating oversized conservation glass. The frame is a custom Modernist Dutch with 12 karat white gold.

Born in West Bend, WI, in 1961, Charles Dwyer discovered his artistic leanings at West Bend East High School. Later he received a scholarship from the West Bend Art Museum and then went on to major in Fine Art at the Milwaukee School of Art and Design. He graduated as Valedictorian.

Directly after college, his work was featured in a one-man exhibition. With money saved from the show, he backpacked with friends through Italy, Austria, Germany and Greece. Dwyer recalls being most impacted in Vienna where the Austrian artists and the moodiness brought on by frequent rain moved him. To this day, the overwhelming beauty of Europe remains an underlying inspiration.

After his European sojourn, Dwyer pursued painting, conservation and restoration work in the Wisconsin. “This job was pretty influential in introducing me to all sorts of imagery and media like the spiritual, astrological, and classical.” explains Dwyer. “I did a lot of mural restoration, trompe l’oeil, marbleizing, and mosaic. This was one of the few jobs you could get and really apply your artwork skills to.”

Commissioned to create the official poster for Chicago’s ARTEXPO ’93, Dwyer has continued to experiment and push the borders of art making, most recently reinterpreting the techniques of printmaking and photography. His spectacular, original works on paper and canvas, which incorporate such diverse techniques as oil paint, pastel, collage, and fabrics, make Dwyer one of the most important living American artists of our time.

A Pair of Watercolors: Loria and Lewis

This watercolor by Vincenzo Loria (1850-1939) suffered from acid burns caused by the mount it was on. These burns gave a orange color to the artwork. Furthermore, the mount had been adhered with a glue that leached onto the edges of the painting, which caused areas of loss. On the back, non-archival tape was used, and on the front dirt particulates had found their way onto the surface.

Chemistry baths neutralized the acids that were then pulled from the paper with blotters. This also cleaned the paper. The glue along the edges was removed and then in-painting concealed the areas of loss.

Vincenzo Loria was born in Salerno, Italy, and went to Naples to study under Domenico Morelli. He exhibited at Turin, Milan, Venice, and Naples. While he did do a few oil paintings, he is most known for watercolors.

This watercolor by Edmund Darch Lewis (1835-1910) suffered from being applied to a mount that contained acids. These acids migrated to the paper and through an interaction caused stains. Chemistry baths neutralized them, and the delicate task of removing the mount was also handled as this time. The pigment losses, most prevalent along the edges, were likely due to water damage stemming from a flood. These areas were in-painted, and then the watercolor was mounted on a cotton rag museum board.

Edmund Darch Lewis was born in Philadelphia. At age fifteen, he studied under Paul Weber. His initial works were landscapes and marine views. He had the good fortune of his artwork being in high demand even at the beginning of his career. Philadelphia, Cuba, and the New England were the major focus of his early career. He transitioned to Cape May, New Jersey, and Narragansett, Rhode Island. He frequently depicted schooners drifting in calm waters, churning mills, and hidden cottages. Lewis favored watercolor, but also used oils and gouache.

Due to his financial success in painting, he amassed a large and diverse collection of artworks. It included a throne that belonged to Napoleon I, a set of drawing room furniture from the Borghese Palace in Rome, and the original sketch for Alexandre Cabanel’s Birth of Venus. His mansion in Philadelphia consisted of two connecting houses and additional annexes that were filled with period furniture, china, and decorative arts. Lewis entertained in a grand style, hosting a number of exhibitions and events in his opulent home.

Lewis exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (1854-69) and was elected an associate of the Academy in 1859. He also showed at the National Academy of Design in New York (1860), the Boston Athenaeum (1858-69), and the Brooklyn Art Association (1862-70).

Albrecht Durer Woodcut of Samson Rending the Lion

This woodcut print by Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) is one of the older works to have come into the studio. But considering its age, the work is in fairly good shape. Along the left there are some rust stains. The top region has a number of holes courtesy a few hungry insects. General brown discoloration is due to acid stains. And the paper was split in the middle.

A water bath was used to help coax the print from its mount, which was a very delicate process. Fortunately, both the print and the backing were of good paper quality, and the adhesive that had been used appears to have been either rice paste or wheat paste. Both are conservation friendly as they’re pH neutral, non-acidic, and are reversible in water.

A second water bath was used to help lift the acid stains even more. Rice paper was used like a barge to give greater control over the submersion, and to support the print when it needed to be lifted from the water. The heat press helps dry and flatten the print.

The Met has the original woodcut for Samson Rending the Lion and they have a wonderful writeup: “Dürer elevated the medium of woodcut to an unprecedented level of technical virtuosity. In Samson Rending the Lion, he achieved striking pictorial effects that vie with those created in contemporary engravings. Remarkable gradations of tone were realized in the lion’s mane—all the more amazing if one considers that each tapered black line in the print was formed in the woodblock by chipping away the wood on either side of the intended line. Such expert and self-assured handling is particularly characteristic of Dürer’s early woodcuts, dating to the 1490s. A print engraved about twenty years earlier by Israel van Meckenem served as the source for Dürer’s powerful depiction of the Old Testament hero who, “suddenly seized” by the spirit of God, “tore the lion to pieces as if it were a kid” (Judges 14:6). The weaponless Samson is here shown on the lion’s back, one foot pressed into its neck as he forces open its mouth.”

Albrecht Durer was born in Nuremberg, Germany on May 21, 1471, the second of eighteen children in the family of a master goldsmith. Fifteen of the children died at an early age and Durer’s mother was often sick, especially in the last years of her life. Although his father was not pleased with his artistic ambitions, at the age of fifteen, Durer was apprenticed to a painter.

Durer is arguable the greatest artist in German history. By adopting the new forms of the Italian quattrocento and connecting them to the already robust tradition of the German print, he almost single-handedly provoked the Northern Renaissance. He had an insatiably inquisitive mind and this led him to be an avid travel, which he started in 1490 before he was nineteen. Up to this time he had spent a four year apprenticeship with master painter and engraver, Michael Wolgemut. He then went to Colmar, France to work under Martin Schongauer, but it took him two years to reach Colmar, and by then Schongauer was dead. His wanderings across Europe included two trips to Venice that were capped  by a year-long sojourn in The Netherlands, where he was a celebrity among celebrities.

In moving from Nuremberg to Venice, Durer reversed a whole direction of cultural priorities. The center to which German artists had previously looked were Bruges and Ghent in Flanders, along with the northern Gothic style shaped there by artists like the Van Eycks and Hugo van der Goes. What fascinated Durer was Italian humanism and all that flowed from the discovery of classical antiquity.

Durer married Agnes Frey in 1494, and in the same year made his first visit to Venice. He would return there in 1505 and stay for two years. Meanwhile he built a great house which still stands on the castle hill in Nuremberg. Durer was a rather indifferent and rude husbands. On his own he took his wife’s dowry and setup a graphics workshop, the products of which his wife was tasked with sitting at the markets and fairs and trying to sell them. He seldom traveled with her and many years later, when he did take her on a trip to the Netherlands, he allowed her to accompany him to only one of the many banquets given in his honor. When they did stay at home, she was left upstairs to eat with the maid.

The success of Durer’s work led the way for other German artists, Matthias Grunewald, Albrecht Altdorfer, Hans Holbein the Younger and Martin Luther’s great friend, Lucas Cranach, all of whose work made Germany for half a century the leader of the Northern Renaissance.

 

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.