Édouard Cortès, Porte St Denis

This wonderful Parisian painting by Edouard Cortes (1882 – 1969), Portre St Denis, came into the studio with a few small scuff marks. We are currently assessing its auction value and then are going to decide with the client how in-depth of a restoration is needed, and ultimately whether or not they would like to pursue auction. If that turns out to be the case, we will advise them to the strongest markets, negotiate contracts with auctions houses, and upon selecting a venue, crate and ship the painting with the safest means possible. Stay tuned for more…

Édouard Leon Cortès, of French and Spanish ancestry, was born in 1882. As an adolescent, he became fascinated with the arts and at seventeen began his studies at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.  In 1901 he contributed a dramatic Parisian street scene at dusk to the Salon des Artistes Français, which brought him immediate fame. Later, as an active member of the prestigious Société des Artistes Français, Cortès exhibited his works yearly at the Société Nationale and the Salon des Independants in Paris.

On the topic of Cortès and his relationship to Paris, biographer David Klein writes: “Paris changed during the years that Cortès painted it, and the changes appear in his paintings.  Horses and carriages disappear in favor of cars and trams; women’s hourglass silhouettes and picture hats give way to boyish figures in short skirts and little furs, gas streetlights turn into neon signs and glaring headlights.  But despite two world wars and the introduction of the machine age, the Paris of Cortès remains primarily the city of the Belle Epoque.  His paintings are often filled with nostalgia for the period.

The period we know today as La Belle Époque lasted from about 1880 to 1914. Many revolutionary ideas in politics, technology, science, poetry, music, literature and the fine arts emerged in Paris during this vibrant time. Paris was the cosmopolitan, fashionable stage on which the drama of the Belle Epoque was enacted.  The city itself was in a state of dramatic change. The campaign of rebuilding undertaken by Napoleon III and Baron Haussmann in the 1850’s, 60’s, 70’s yielded wide tree-lined avenues, extensive parks, and elegant golden-gray stone buildings. Parisians thronged the new boulevards, parks and theatres to see and to be seen.  In 1888 the Figaro Illustré devoted a special issue to this “spectacle de la rue”, calling the boulevards “the true theatre of Paris”.

His paintings express the romance, energy and charm of old Paris through his masterly application of bold brush strokes and intriguing colors. His works display the profound knowledge he held of perspective and composition; and, the viewer’s eye is most often caught by fascinating details – the play of lights on wet pavement, shadows on streets and glowing windows and street lamps. On any one of Cortès’ canvases, one can find an array of tones ranging from soft gray hues and ambers to vivid reds, yellows and oranges. A splash of purple may be a man’s tailored dinner jacket or a stroke of blue, a woman’s cloak. The viewer cannot help but marvel at the overall effect of the artist’s composition.

After a life long dedication to seizing the magic of Paris during its transition from the romantic Belle Epoque to the modern, twentieth century metropolis as we know it, Cortès has left the world a legacy of master paintings. Now found in the most prestigious collections throughout the world, his work continues to awe collectors.

Polka Landscape of Kalamazoo River

This painting by John Polka (1930-2006), Sailing on the Kalamazoo, came in with a hole caused by an abrasion, as well as the surface covered by tar and nicotine contaminates.

From the reverse, the threads of canvas along the abrasion were re-weaved and adhered with a restorer’s adhesive. A finishing coat was then applied consisting of an acrylic material that has the ability to consolidate and dry clear. In-painting was then carried out on the front to conceal the area. Careful cleaning lifted the tar, nicotine, and dirt impurities from the paint film; this revealed the brighter, original colors. Conservation varnish finished the restoration.

John Polka came from a family of Hoteliers in Europe. He received his early training in Germany at a health spa his father ran. The family was there at the time of the outbreak of World War II, and were subsequently stuck there. To keep busy, Pollka began to paint with the director, who was a summer painter, and later with a professional artist who had fled Berlin. Polka often painted large canvases of Victorian era ladies and flowers in a romantic style. Eventually, he made his way to Saugatuck and was an instrumental art figure, opening the Polka Gallery on Water street.

During his 30 years in Saugatuck his style changed, as well as his subjects. Finely-painted details gave way to broad stokes and impressionistic drawings with bold colors and hazy outlines. His dunes were done with surprising colors: gold trees and magenta sand.

Recordings of his interviews as well as his artwork can be found at the Old School House in Douglas, Michigan.

The Old School House 

Werner Koepf Collection

Roughly 70 artworks by Werner Koepf (1909-1992) have made their way to our studio. They represent the Koepf art estate and will be restored to ensure their integrity, and then sent to auction. The unusual aspect of this job is that, since Koepf lacks an established auction history, in order to not saturate the market, we’ll have to strategically coordinate a slow release and essentially establish his market; and by doing this, the project has an unusually lengthy scope for us: we expect it to take several years.

Restoration efforts have already begun and these artworks have been maintained well so the amount of care they need is only going to have to be minimal.

Werner Koepf was born in Neckarsulum, Baden-Württemberg, Germany and emigrated with his parents and brother to the United States in 1929. During the Great Depression he worked as a house painter. In 1937 his work was prominently mentioned in the New York Times’ review of The Society of Independent Artists 19th Annual Exhibition. With his talent he gained many connections in the art world: Morris Kantor, a trustee of Contemporary Arts arranged three scholarships for Koepf at the Art Students League from 1937-1939, and Daniel Catton Rich, the Director of Fine Arts at the Art Institute of Chicago paved the way for his inclusion in the Institute’s 52nd Annual Exhibition of American Paintings and Sculpture in 1941.

Koepf served in the US Army during World War II. Starting as a translator, between 1942-1945, he was then transferred to the European Theater where he served with the 496th Heavy Automotive Ordnance Company. In November 1945, he returned to the United States and settled in Derby, Connecticut.

In 1952 he was accepted into Yale University where he was awarded the prize for outstanding achievement in the School of Fine Arts for 1952-1953 by Josef Albers. Maintaining his European contacts, Koepf showed numerous paintings, including one man shows in Paris, Stockholm, and Bremen.

Werner Koepf died at his home in March of 1992.



Harry Sunter Seascape

This seascape by Harry Sunter (1850 – 1900) came in with a sizable tear, an accident with the artwork placed in a car and then the family dog finding the same spot to lie down. The surface is also contaminated with particulates; and this happens to be one of those paintings that is more difficult to tell what effect on the colors the cleaning will have. But we do expect a more noticeable change in the sky area, which will strengthen the incredible detail of the three tiny ships on the horizon on the left side. Stay tuned for more …

Harry Sunter was one of the most accomplished and mysterious artists to have worked in the Finger Lakes, around Auburn, NY, in the late 19th Century. There is a remarkable painting of his in the collection of the Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, “The Great Scull Race of July 4, 1878 at Skaneateles,” showing a race and celebration on the lake in downtown Skaneateles. He exhibited in the late 1880’s at both the National Academy of Design and at the Pennsylvania Academy but then suddenly disappeared from the scene.

A. T. Van Laer in 1918 in “Painters of Auburn” wrote: “When I first knew Sunter he was operating a camera in the gallery of Teneyck’s Copying House. On pleasant days, when he found the time to go sketching, I tried to go with him. Usually he went somewhere on the Outlet or at Buck’s Point on the lake and I used to watch him work. This was when I had begun to draw as a student at the Academy and as yet knew little of color, so it became my pleasant part to watch the mysteries of Sunter’s deft handling, as the bright tints of his palette found their way to the fast developing sketch on the canvas. It was marvelous to me then how he did it. Sunter had somehow imbibed Clough’s methods and later developed a pleasing sense of the picturesque. He too loved the sunshine, and I am sure, had he lived he would have taken in a large measure Clough’s place in the affections of Auburnians.

“Sunter made a trip to Block Island one summer and I shall never forget the eagerness with which we awaited his coming and the enthusiasm with which we looked through his summer’s work. Sunter did not live long after this and we have only the brilliant promise of what might have been a successful career.”

Sunter was also a student of William Henry Yates and he was probably a friend and colleague of William Bruce. A 1939 letter to Professor Long at the museum from Henry M. Allen of Auburn states that Harry Sunter married the sister of The Schweinfurth brothers, architects, who later funded the new Schweinfurth Art Center in Auburn.


Fernando Zóbel de Ayala Montojo’s Perales de Tajuña

Perales de Tajuña is named after a small town outside of Madrid, but our experience with it has been a little more worldly than that. Traveling to the West Coast to securely and safely transport it back to our Holland studio; where, after a conservation layover, it headed for it’s penultimate stop, the Philippines, where a lucky individual was able to win it at auction–this artwork is well-traveled.

The painting suffered from dirt particulates across the surface, mold on the reverse, and and on the front a few surface contaminates. Due to the pure and minimalist style of Perales de Tajuña, as well as its mediums and execution, syringe and brushed black against gessoed linen, it was very important for restoration efforts to “stay in its lane,” so to speak. As part of his Serie Negra (The Black Series), Fernando Zóbel (1924 – 1984) captures a wonderful quality in this painting: a type of expressive and fluid binary, that at the same time seems so simple and yet so evocative and mesmerizing. That was one of the wonderful surprises of this job; Zóbel was oddly not an artist we were familiar with, but upon seeing his work it was such a great reminder of how inspiring art can be, and of how refreshing and ingenious Zóbel was in combining the Asian pen and ink style with a Zen Buddhist ethos, and while restricting himself to black and white, somehow managing to infuse it with so much warmth and liveliness.

At the same time as restoration, we reached out to Southeast Asian auction houses, where the Zóbel market is the strongest, and fielded offers and negotiated terms before finally presenting the best offers to our clients, who then decided which one to pick. Arrangements were made to ship the painting out of New York City, and we built a custom crate and rented a van and delivered it in person to the handlers. We also prepared an appraisal for the artwork, as it was necessary for insurance purposes.

We are happy to report that this wonderful artwork sold, and exceeded its high estimate.

Fernando Zóbel de Ayala y Montojo (1924-1984) was a Filipino painter of Basque, Spanish, Danish and German descent. He was a member of the Zóbel de Ayala family, a prominent business family with vast holdings of land and assets including the prominent Ayala Corporation in the Philippines. He is remembered for his mastery of both the real and abstract, and for his friendliness and generosity.

Zóbel was born in Ermita, the civic center of Manila, Philippines. He received his first artistic training from Fernando Cueto Amorsolo, a Filipino artist who was a recipient of Zóbel’s family’s support. Immediately after beginning a medical degree at the University of Santo Tomas in 1942, he began to suffer from a spinal condition that caused him to be bedridden. He taught himself sketching to pass the time while he recovered from his condition. Although he eventually recovered fully, he never gave up his passion for sketching, even while completing a degree in history and literature at Harvard University.

While in Boston, he encountered artists such as Hyman Bloom, Reed Champion, and James Pfeufer; he used this time in Boston to expand his artistic horizons, dabbling in a variety of techniques. In 1954, he began studying at the Rhode Island School of Design and encountered works by the abstract painter Mark Rothko; this encounter led to a vast change towards the abstract in Zóbel’s work. He painted the Saetas, a series of abstract paintings in which he used a hypodermic syringe to create extremely thin lines of color on the canvas; these paintings are perhaps Zóbel’s most famous.

Returning to the Philippines in the late 1950s to help run the family business, Zóbel never abandoned his love for art. In 1962, he held his first one-man show in Manila. Never a businessman at heart, he was most jovial when painting, a mood that is reflected in his art. He became known in the Philippines for his generosity and welcoming nature, always available for a friendly chat. When he moved to Cuenca, Spain in the 1960s, he continued his open door policy at his studio, welcoming many new friends into his life. Inspired by his generosity, his family opened the Ayala Museum in Makati City, Philippines, to showcase both Zóbel’s artwork and his vast personal collection; today, the museum dedicates itself to showing the talents of Filipino artists past and present.

Zóbel passed away from a heart attack while visiting Rome in 1984. Immediately after, the city of Cuenca posthumously awarded Zóbel a Gold Medal. He also received the Presidential Medal of Merit in 2006.


Romanian Interior Painting Finished and Framed

Finishing touches were made to this interior scene from Romania believed to have been done around 1910. Flood damage had caused widespread ailments.

New linen was adhered with an extra layer of Pecap to provide foundational strength. Widespread craquelures were addressed with in-painting, and the old varnish that had yellowed was removed. Careful cleaning was carried out across the entire surface. Some before and after photographs show exactly how transformative the results were and give an idea to what restoration is capable of.

In conjunction with our suite mates, The Nines Framing Studio, a new frame was given to the artwork with European styling, highlighted by an egg and dart motif on the inner rail, and a vine motif on the outer rail.

Willam Aiken Walker Copper Plates in Custom Frames

Final steps to this project (Part1, Part2). A pair of new frames were made in a medley style, combining the strong border of the Louis XVI with the simple slope of the Low American Cove style. Picking up on the Americana of the South, the demi-centers received a basketweave design and the corners were accented with a sgraffito of cotton flowers with leafs. Treating all equal, man and woman alike, the two frames are identical, but with their own original charm that comes with anything done by hand. On the reverse, the copper plates came with their own harness system, and we incorporated it, securing it to the mount with wires in three places.

We’re a bit sad to see them leave, but are thrilled with how they turned out.

William Aiken Walker (1839-1921) was an American artist who was born to an Irish Protestant father and a mother of South Carolina background in Charleston, South Carolina in 1839.  In 1842, when his father died, Walker’s mother moved the family to Baltimore, Maryland, where they remained until returning to Charleston in 1848.

In 1861, during the American Civil War, Walker enlisted in the Confederate army and served under General Wade Hampton in the Hampton’s Legion.  He was wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines (1862).  After recuperating, he was transferred back to Charleston, where he was assigned picket duty, which gave him time to paint.  For the next two years, he made maps and drawings of Charleston’s defenses.  He was separated from the military at the end of 1864.  After the Civil War, Walker moved to Baltimore, where he produced small paintings of the “Old South” to sell as tourist souvenirs.

He is best known for his paintings depicting the lives of poor black emancipated slaves, especially sharecroppers in the post-Reconstruction American South.  Two of his paintings were reproduced by Currier and Ives as chromolithographs.

Walker continued painting until his death on January 3, 1921 in Charleston, where he is buried in the family plot at Magnolia Cemetery.

Two Cora Bliss Taylor Portraits of One Sitter

These two portraits by Cora Bliss Taylor (1889-1986) are of the same sitter, and we believe they were painted around twenty years apart. The first in the photographs is the younger portrait. A dry paint film has led to some chips and losses, and there are more on the way, but it’s fascinating to see the similarities between the two versions, particularly the facial features and how the artist rendered them over the passage of time. The older portrait also suffers from a dry paint film that has chipped in places. The unique aspect of this painting is that it was originally a full-length portrait of the sitter, but was cut, and the photographs show the losses along this cutline. Stay tuned for more …

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.

Cora Bliss Taylor, center with hat, circa 1941.


L. Stepano River Scene

This oil painting by L. Stepano (20th Century) came in with a stubborn type of varnish. This was likely applied at some point to cover the numerous cuts across the surface, that were waiting for us once we removed the varnish. Using our gel system, a more robust cleaning method, we were able to remove the varnish. Careful cleaning then removed the surface contaminates and brightened the colors, which was a step in the right direction but also made the cuts more prominent. In-painting was then used to conceal them, and this was followed with new, conservation varnish. These last two steps will be repeated again to finish the restoration.

Unfortunately there is very little biographical information about L. Stepano. We know that he was an American artist from the 20th Century, and one of his paintings, Cattle In A Landscape, went to auction in 2017, having come from the estate of James Rees, the former President and Chief Executive Officer of George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

Don Smit Three Seascape Paintings

These paintings were done by Don Smit, who studied under Charles Vickery, an artist whose works we’ve had the pleasure of restoring and appraising.

All three paintings are troubled with mold invasions. On the first painting, the smallest, the mold has infected the backing, which is also delaminating. We are currently in the process of removing it. The other two were done on artists boards, and are in good condition. We’ll adhere new linen to the first painting, using a heat press which also has the benefit of making the canvas flat. If you look at the pictures of the last painting, you’ll notice it’s canvas has bowed along the edges. We’ll apply honeycomb backing, which has the strength to return it to plane. Molds will be treated through tenting, and the surfaces carefully cleaned. Conservation varnish will finish the restorations. Stay tuned for more…