Lee Krasner Painting

This Lee Krasner oil painting is a wonderful representation of her Little Image collection. It is believed to have been executed in 1948 or 1949. Since then some surface contaminates have darkened the colors, and from surface hits a number of craquelures have emerged. Upon examination, it was also discovered that the original stretcher bar was too small, causing the left and right edge of the painting to be clipped. We will address the issues to the paint surface, build a new stretcher bar, and also a new custom frame in a wide modernist style. Stay tuned for more…

Born to a Russian immigrant family living in Brooklyn on October 27, 1908, Krasner decided early on to pursue a career in the arts. Enrolling at the Cooper Union in 1926, the young artist struggled to find the appropriate artistic milieu to encourage her talent. Beginning in 1928, she studied for a brief time at the Art Students League, then at National Academy of Design from 1928-1932, and subsequently at City College in 1932-33, where she obtained a teaching certificate. However, the teachings of the influential artist Hans Hoffman at his renowned school in Greenwich Village had the greatest impact on Krasner’s artistic development.

Krasner studied with Hofmann intermittently from 1937 to 1940. During these years her style changed from Surrealist-inspired paintings of the early-mid 1930s to abstract figural and still-life compositions that reveal an understanding of Cubist and Fauvist principles. Art historian Robert Hobbs singles out the artist’s charcoal nude figure studies from this period. He writes: “Of far greater importance than her still-life paintings are the life drawings that Krasner made at the Hofmann School. In these works she quickly assimilated the rudiments of Cubism as well as Hofmann’s emphasis on tensions achieved through the opposition of light and shadow, depth and flatness.”

However, Krasner did not always agree with Hofmann’s teaching methods. Robert Hobbs reports how she became angered when Hofmann tore one of her drawings into quarters to make a point about compositional tension to his students.  It was perhaps not surprising that she later shortened her name to the androgynous moniker “Lee,” perhaps in an attempt to combat institutional sexism. Remarks such as Hofmann’s awkward compliment, when he announced to the class, “This [study] is so good you would not know that it was done by a woman,” testified to the inherent biases lingering in the art world. Krasner’s move was not uncommon for female artists of her ambition; other artist’s of her generation, such as Grace (George) Hartigan and Michael (Corrinne) West, also adopted male first names.

In the 1930s, Krasner became acquainted with Harold Rosenberg, who would become one of the most influential art critics of his generation. In 1934, Krasner was appointed to the Public Works of Art Project, and the following year she and Rosenberg were assigned to Max Spivak’s mural project (for the Federal Art Project [FAP]).  Their positions—more as de-facto personal assistants than artistic collaborators on the project since Spivak preferred to work alone—allowed for ample conversations and lively debates about art, leftist politics, and intellectual developments. Rosenberg, an aspiring poet, introduced her to the work of Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud.  The French Symbolist poet Rimbaud provided a tremendous source of inspiration for the artist, particularly in his poem “A Season in Hell,” which Krasner excerpted and inscribed on the wall of her studio in 1941.

In 1940, Krasner joined the American Abstract Artists (AAA), a group dedicated to creating international abstract art whose slogan announced their aims “For Peace, for Democracy, For Cultural Progress.” Her participation in AAA exhibitions from 1940 to 1943, her outspoken attitude and involvement in protests organized by the Artists Union, and her affiliation with Hofmann’s school increased her reputation in the early 1940s. She received a public mural commission for the New York radio station WNYC (which was never executed), and also participated in several group exhibitions. These included French and American Painting, a show organized by John Graham that opened in January 1942 at McMillen Inc. design studios.

French and American Painting marked the first occasion where Krasner and Pollock exhibited their work in the same show. Indeed, after receiving the offer to participate in the exhibition, Krasner visited Pollock’s studio to introduce herself, not realizing that she had had met Pollock previously. In 1945, the couple both contributed paintings to A Problem for Critics at Howard Putzel’s Gallery 67.  They were married later that year in an intimate ceremony in The Springs, Long Island, where they had purchased a farmhouse not far from the home of Harold Rosenberg and his wife May Tabak.

In 1946, Krasner launched her Little Image series. These paintings incorporated an all-over compositional technique using variously short dabs, dense webs of dripped paint, and grids of ciphers and hieroglyphic forms. The Little Image paintings were informed by Krasner’s religious training as a child, when she learned Hebrew, and also by post-war Zionism.  More broadly, Krasner’s calligraphic paintings revealed the artist’s exploration of symbols and sign systems; she explained, “I thought of [my unconscious messages] as a kind of crazy writing of my own, sent by me to I don’t know who, which I can’t read, and I’m not so anxious to read.” It was a period of artist growth that Krasner said she was waiting for something to happen, confident that the repetition of familiar pigment and canvas would eventually make something. These works were not executed on an easel, but on the floor or a table. This marked the only time she ever worked looking down on her canvases.

In 1953, Krasner began to destroy both Pollock’s and her own work to generate small collages composed of the fragments of sliced canvases. The collages that resulted from this process of destruction and recombination displayed complex interlocking forms, realizing in both a material and visual way the tension of opposing forces encouraged by Hofmann years earlier. These works also reveal the painter’s appreciation for Matisse’s lively color. Krasner combined the principles of Hoffman and Matisse with her admiration for Cubist drawing.

Following Pollock’s death in 1956, Krasner responded with a group of works called Earth Green. The series featured monumental painterly explosions addressing themes of renewal, such as harvest, fertility, and growth. Sometimes referred to as “autobiographical,” these Abstract Expressionist figurative paintings often depict hybrid, gender-neutral personnages within carefully structured canvases that balance horizontal and vertical forces. In 1959 Krasner launched another series inspired by death. These works, referred to collectively as “Night Journeys” are part of her larger Umber series and are characterized by their limited palette of blacks, whites, ochres, and browns. Also distinctive are their mixed use of sprayed and spattered paint and the intense emotions they evoke. In 1958 Krasner also produced a large-scale mosaic for the Uris Building in New York utilizing some of the same forms as her collages.

In the mid-1970s, Krasner’s work came full circle. After rediscovering several portfolios of the charcoal Nude Study from Life drawings in 1976, she saved (and likely signed and dated) those she wished to keep, giving some as gifts to friends and colleagues. The remaining drawings she cut into abstract forms and sliced and pasted these fragments onto large canvases. Painting on top of the collage, she titled the series, Eleven Ways to Use the Words to See. These works expressed the artist’s interest in both Cubist design and Fauvist color, as well as her career-long engagement with drawing, painting, and collage.

That decade also witnessed the ascendancy of Krasner’s national reputation. Her work was exhibited in several major exhibitions that celebrated the varied aspects of her oeuvre, including Lee Krasner: Large Paintings at the Whitney Museum of American Art, organized by Marcia Tucker, and the traveling show Lee Krasner: Collages and Works on Paper, 1933-1974 initiated by the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Two other important exhibitions were Krasner/Pollock: A Working Relationship, curated by Barbara Rose, and Lee Krasner: Works on Paper at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.  After suffering from arthritis and battling various illnesses since 1962, Krasner died in 1984.

Fernando Ramos Prida Collection

The 8 works by Fernando Ramos Prida (1937) are enroute to auction with a layover at our studio for a little restoration. Most need moderate cleaning, and some will require a little more. Typical of Prida’s style, seven of these are reliefs made from wood, giving them many nooks and crannies for dust and dirt to accumulate. The eighth work is an oil on canvas and is sizable at 47 1/4” x 39 1/2.” We due expect the removal of the dirt to have a significant impact on the colors.

Prida was born on January 2, 1937 in Mexico City. In the 1950s, he studied art at the National Academy of San Carlos and the Esmeralda school of painting and sculpture. A spot in the very prestigious Galeria de Arte Mexicano was offered to him after he graduated. In 1965, at the age of 28, he had a one man show that sold out; and across the United States, Europe, and Mexico, he has had 31 solo shows and 69 group exhibitions. Cuernavaca is now where he calls home, but he has worked and lived in Boston and Paris.

Prida’s work can be found in private and public collections all over the world. In Mexico, Latin America, America, and Europe, there are 36 museums exhibiting original Fernando Ramos Prida pieces. At age 43, he began to carve and paint wooden tablets left outside to crack in the scorching hot sun. This art is reminiscent of the Olmec and Mayan heritage of his youth. This has become the style that he is most well known for.

Frederick Fursman Peasant Girl With One Shoe Off

This painting suffers from a very dry canvas and a considerable accumulation of dirt particulates on the paint surface. There is also stress placed on the painting with how tight the fit is from the stretcher bar. The frame is dry and has dirt contaminates. Two of its corners have lost ornamentation and the liner needs to be replaced.

We’ll clean and re-line the painting. A new liner will be prepared, matching the frame finish; and the frame will be cleaned and hydrated, and the corners mended with casts made to recreate the decorative motifs that were lost. There is also a neat label on the reverse that will be a great keepsake. We’ll de-acidify it and attach it to foamcore before returning it to the frame.

A painter and teacher, Frederick Fursman (1874 – 1943) was born in El Paso, Illinois and studied in Paris at the Academy Julian and in Chicago at the Art Institute. Early in his career, he painted in France in an impressionist style, depicting the landscape of Brittany and figures in that landscape.

In 1910, he and fellow artist Walter Marshall Clute founded a summer school of painting in Saugatuck, Michigan, which would later become Ox-Bow. It was to draw inspiration from the Smith Academy and the Academe Julian, encouraging the bohemian social life of Brittany and the literary soirées of the evening clubs in Chicago. He explained to a reporter in 1930, “We found the spot one day by chance as we walked along the river and cut through the woods to the lagoon. That was in 1910. Some of my pupils at the Art Institute had been working in a summer class at Sauguatuck with Walter Clute and me for several years…I found the place as charming as its name, and this spot, close to the village and yet quite apart from it…was ideal for our purpose. The Inn was already operating. The oldest part of the present building had once been an Indian fur-trading post. Later, it had served as a lumberjack’s hotel. When the axmen left the fisherman came–now the artists.”

While serving as director, Fursman rented the local lighthouse from the government for $10 per year, and would commute to work either by swimming or by rowboat. He supplied the school with its personality and strength, encouraging free expression, experimentation, and the active yet disciplined pursuit of plein-air painting. In 1920 he bought a home in downtown Saugatuck, and in 1931 he organized the Saugatuck Arts Association.

By 1913 and 1914, when he had returned to Brittany, he was less focused on representation in his paintings and had turned increasingly to abstraction with sensational color that showed the influence of the French fauvre painters.

Fursman exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy, Corcoran Gallery, and the Art Institute of Chicago. His work is in the collection of the Toledo Museum of Art.

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.

Family Ancestry Volume

This book came in with several deterioration issues including pages that were very brittle and stitching that was failing. Also, the cover boards were lost and the leather spine was gone.

For this rather substantial volume it was necessary to de-acidify every page. Restoration of the spine was also an intensive process as it involved a series: fabricating new archival parts, glueing, and pressing under blotters. Fortunately, once it was done, we were very happy with the strength and appearance, the former giving it a condition that will allow it to be opened by grandparent hands and little grandkid hands for years and years to come.

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.


Hoerman Grand Canyon Original American Impressionist 22K Frame

We were very happy with how our original frame turned out and with how it paired with the Hoerman Grand Canyon landscape. The quality that struck us about the painting were the layers of geological progression receding into the distance and how the cloud gave commonality to both the progression and also the distance. We took this quality, and within the American Impressionist vein, simplified it in our corner design with what we’re calling “Mountains and Leaves.” We were also pleased with how the richness of the 22K gold picks up the red tones of the Grand Canyon and gives a warm, open, and inviting quality.

Robert Wood Autumn in the Woods Landscape

This is the second Robert Wood (1889 – 1979) painting we’ve had in studio. This one has a substantial coating of tar and nicotine, and in the sky area, where the paint is thinner, some areas of loss were minor hits have occurred. Along the perimeter, where the stretcher bar pushed the canvas against the frame, is a crack in the paint film.

Stronger than usual chemicals were needed to remove the tar and nicotine. On the reverse we applied a restorer’s chemical to clean and hydrate the painting. Cleaning to the front has had a stunning effect. Wood was known for his Bluebonnet paintings, and you get some of that blue in the sky. Cleaning also reveals the intimacy of the brushstrokes and reveals the technical ability of Wood.

After in-painting, re-stretch, re-fit and conservation varnish, this painting will be all done. Stay tuned for more, the transformation photos are sure to be remarkable.

Robert William Wood was one of the most prolific landscape painters in American history. His career spanned several decades. Regions he is most known for include the Texas hill country, the California cost, the Rocky Mountains, upstate New York and the Sierra Nevada.

Wood’s success was unusual in that he did very little promotion of his own work. Instead he placed faith in the natural appeal and time-enduring qualities that strove for, dedicating himself to his craft.

He was born in Sundgate, Kent, England, and immigrated to the United States in 1910. Subsisting on odd jobs and traveling heavily, Wood, along with his family, finally settled for a time in San Antonio, Texas where he became a pupil of Jose Arpa, a Spanish painter who studied at the Seville Academy.

Wood’s style began in the vein of 19th century English Landscape and evolved to include impressionist brushstrokes and more vibrant colors. Robert Wood continued to paint until his death. He died in Bishop, California.