Two Cora Bliss Taylor Portraits of One Sitter Finished

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 pictures was originally a full portrait but was cut at some point. Cleaning revealed there were more paint losses than originally thought. In-fill and in-painting concealed these areas. The second portrait had a dry paint film, and had suffered some cupping. After de-fit, it was re-lined with new linen to give it a stronger foundation. This was done in a heat press which also helped to stabilize the paint film where it had cupped. Further stabilization was done with a small iron to target the more difficult spots. In-painting concealed the lost areas, and careful cleaning was carried out across the entire surface.

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.

William Hogarth Intaglio Complete

These six intaglios from William Hogarth (1697 – 1764) came in with a fair amount of damage, primarily staining, but we did notice some old paper in-fill that was of a poor quality. Also, being quite old, these intaglios had accumulated a fair amount of dirt particulates. Main restoration efforts entailed de-acidification, critical for the health of any work on paper, and then reversing the old paper in-fill with new archival paper that matches the original. It was amazing to see how well these intaglios cleaned up and how much that helped reveal the detail of these compositions. Every corner seems to have its own scene, and there are numerous instances of miniature handwriting which now have impressive clarity.

Hogarth was born in 1697 near the East End cattle market of Smithfield. His father, Richard Hogarth, made an unsuccessful attempt to open a Latin-speaking coffeehouse, which left the family bankrupt, Richard confined to Fleet Prison, and the young William fending for himself.

After apprenticing at a silver workshop, where he mastered the art of engraving, Hogarth opened his own print shop. The artist’s first widespread notice came with the publication of The South Sea Scheme (1721), ridiculing the greed and corruption of stock market speculators. A Harlot’s Progress (1732) brought Hogarth tremendous success and celebrity, leading to a second morality series, A Rake’s Progress (1734).

Throughout the 1730s and 1740s, the artist’s reputation grew and so did his interest in social and moral reform. Hogarth’s work took on a distinctly propagandist tone, directed at the urbanization of London and the city’s problems with crime, prostitution, gambling, and alcoholism.

Industry and Idleness (1747) was designed to encourage young boys to develop a strong Protestant work ethic and thus achieve success. Beer Street and Gin Lane (1751), directed at the widespread sale and consumption of alcohol, were followed by The Four Stages of Cruelty(1751), which condemned rampant acts of cruelty to animals.

Hogarth died in 1764 in his home in Leicester Fields, leaving behind an extraordinary legacy. Working almost entirely outside the academic art establishment, he revolutionized the popular art market and the role of the artist. Hogarth strived to create works of great aesthetic beauty but also ones that would help to make London a better city for future generations.


William Hogarth (1697–1764). Hogarth Painting the Comic Muse, 1758. Etching and engraving. Graphic Arts Collection, Firestone Library.

Chuang Che Diptych

“No art can mature by itself; it has to absorb nutrition from the rest of the world’s art. I’ve always had this ideal; to see a fusion of Chinese and Western painting.” -Chuang Che

This fascinating diptych came into the studio recently and is by an artist we are becoming quite familiar with, Chuang Che (1934-).

This makes the sixth Chuang Che we’ve had in our studio over the past several years. The previous ones generally needed minimal restoration efforts and were then either shipped to auction in the Asian market or sold through private means. The diptych is in great condition and only needs light cleaning. Whether or not it will be heading to auction has to be determined. Stay tuned for more…

Chuang Che was born in Beijing, China. His father was the Vice-Director of the National Palace Museum and a calligrapher. He was a great influence on Chuang and the unlimited access to the treasures of the Museum had a lasting impact on his work. The family moved to Taiwan in 1948 where Chuang enlisted in the Taiwan Normal University to study Fine Art. He was taught by the likes of Chu Teh-Chun and other modernist Chinese artists who encouraged the influence of the West. In 1958 he became a founding member of the Fifth Moon Group, whose aim was to fuse the traditional practices of the East with modern techniques of the Western avant-garde. Chuang became immersed in the modernist movement which was flourishing in Taiwan at the time.

In 1966, Chuang won the J.D. Rockefeller III scholarship to travel to the US. The following year, the Cleveland Art Museum and the Detroit Institute of Arts purchased some of his works. In 1968 he visited his teacher Chu Teh-Chun in Paris, where he also met Zao Wou-Ki, with whom Che found a strong artistic connection. He also travelled to Spain and met abstract artist Antoni Tapies.

Chuang moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1972 and finally settled in New York in 1988, where he became an assistant to abstract expressionist sculptor Seymour Lipton.

Chuang Che was greatly inspired by Monet’s Nymphéas series. His own paintings are a combination of traditional Chinese landscapes and his influences from Western Abstract Expressionism. As a result, Chuang Che is labelled as a pioneering figure in Chinese Abstraction. His adaptation of Eastern technique to western materials enables him to fluidly combine these two influences.

Chuang Che’s work has been shown in museums worldwide such as at the Hong Kong Art Museum, National Museum of History, Taipei and Saginaw Art Museum, Michigan. In 1992 the Taipei Fine Arts Museum held his first major retrospective and most recently held another in 2016.

Chuang Che lives and works in New York.

Lewis Cross Self-Portrait

This self-portrait of Lewis Cross (1864-1951) suffered from delamination, and in some areas this was quite severe. Craquelures were prevalent throughout and there were areas of previous in-painting that left a matte finish and contrasted with the rest. The old wax reline had failed and was no longer helping to hold the paint film.

By using the paper face method we were able to provide support to the paint film to then, from the reverse, remove the failed wax reline. Delamination areas were then targeted with spot treatments of a restorer’s adhesive. New linen was provided as a support and adhered in a heat press which simultaneously helped consolidate the areas that were flaking.

After careful cleaning and removal of the old varnish, the lost areas were in-filled and in-painted. Conservation varnish finished the restoration.

A custom Krasner frame was prepared with white gold over red clay, with a baguette that helps protect the edge of the canvas and prevents the frame from covering the edge of the painting.

Lewis Lumen Cross was born in Tuscola County, likely northwest of Davison, Michigan, but moved to a farm just outside Spring Lake on the western shore of Michigan in 1872 where he spent the remainder of his life. He attended Northern Indiana Normal School and Business Institute (Now Valparaiso University) at Valparaiso, Indiana, briefly between 1883-84 where he studied drawing and penmanship. Later, likely at the same place, he studied oil painting, a medium which he preferred.  There is no other evidence of any formal study.

Cross was referred to as an “incurable romantic” (Grand Rapids Herald, 28 February, 1940). He devoted his attention to subjects around him and, perhaps, was aware that this life was about to change; a feeling that was especially true of the passenger pigeons that he featured in a number of works. This same article stated that “Cross has taken care through the years to see that the outdoor glory that once was the district’s should not fade so long as canvas can hold good oils portraying memory’s patterns.”

The artist is known to have exhibited only a few times during his lifetime, including once in 1890 at the Detroit Museum of Art where he displayed a still-life of Crescent Strawberries.

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.