Earlier this year, two small travel paintings by Grant Wood went up for sale at an auction in Florida. Although they are not the regional subject matter people have come to expect from Wood’s work, these lovely paintings showcase his style while traveling abroad during the 1920’s. Greg, a longtime client of The Center and a collector of American Regionalism art for many years, couldn’t pass on the opportunity to buy these two Wood paintings. “I bought them sight unseen and had them shipped directly to The Conservation Center, as I knew you would do a wonderful job making sure all was well and in order with them.”
The conservators at The Conservation Center had the rare privilege to conserve a mural in one of Chicago's historic buildings. The University Club of Chicago is a private social club that was founded in 1887 “by university graduates who wanted a special place where they could enjoy intellectual pursuits.” The Club’s current building was constructed in 1907-09 by renowned architectural firm Holabird and Roche, and with its distinct Neo-Gothic facade, it still stands out today amongst the buildings along Chicago’s Michigan Avenue. For the interior spaces, the Club hired fellow member and Chicago artist Frederic Clay Bartlett (1873-1953) to design the interior decor of the club, which included such original artwork as Bartlett’s 56-panel mural on the ceiling of the Club’s Michigan Room.
Traditional and simple, yet beautifully constructed, the style of this Shaker bonnet may lead you to think that it is at least a hundred years old, if not more. Though reminiscent of styles popular in the mid 1800s, according to the owner, “This bonnet belonged to one of the last surviving Shaker sisters at the Canterbury Shaker Village in Canterbury, New Hampshire. It was sold after she passed away, many years ago.” The last Shakers at Canterbury Village might not have passed away as long ago as you think. Eldress Bertha Lindsay and Sister Ethel Hudson, the last two Shaker sisters at Canterbury Village, passed away in the early 1990s; only about 25 years ago.
Here at The Center, we are used to seeing all sorts of artwork and family heirlooms come from worldwide locations, but we’ve never had an item come to us from out of this world! This particular story started off a little something like this…
The countdown began; ten, nine, eight, seven. The family watched as the space shuttle was about to lift from the launch pad; three, two, one, Blast Off!
Located in the Land of Lincoln, The Conservation Center sees its fair share of memorabilia connected to the 16th President of the United States. Among various Lincoln memorabilia, in 2014 we had the honor of restoring the courting couch, the sofa on which a young Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd actually sat throughout their courtship in the home of Mary’s sister, Elizabeth. So when a Lincoln relic causes our conservators to stop in awe, rest assured it is a truly special item.
The name may not be immediately familiar, but anyone who has spent time walking through the streets of Chicago, will likely recognize the distinctive figurative sculptures of Chicago artist John “Jack” Kearney (1924-2014). Kearney’s sculptures, like those in Oz Park, Chicago, capture a playfulness not always found with public artwork. Kearney trained at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan and later at Universita per Stranieri in Perugia, Italy. He became interested in creating artwork using a unique yet common material: chrome automobile bumpers. When his interest sparked in the 1950s, these materials were plentiful, durable, and added an unexpected element to his whimsical animal sculptures.
During the progressive early-mid 20th Century, the genre of Abstract Expressionism became a wildly popular timeperiod in American art history. New York School, as some called the movement, was a way for artists to break traditional and social conventions surrounding the art world, and adopt more emotional expression through abstraction. Among the list of Abstract Expressionist artists was Norman Lewis.
It seemed like any other Wednesday in September at The Center. Things were relatively quiet after a previously hectic week at EXPO CHICAGO, and the Client Services team was expecting an appointment with Israel Idonije who had a large watercolor piece that needed display options. When the client arrived with the watercolor, the team quickly realized that “display options” was an understatement. The Conservation Center prides itself on interdepartmental collaboration and the consultation soon included several conservators from many departments, all of whom were ready to Bear Down and tackle the task at hand.
Whether ancient, contemporary, or any time in between, there are countless types of artwork of all styles and ages that challenge conservators. Every piece of artwork has its own nuances and characteristics that are the result of the artist’s technique, the materials used, and the conditions the artwork experiences over the years. When it comes to conservation there is probably no type of artwork as commonly complex as traditional Asian screens. Typically constructed of paper decorated with paints, gilding, and stretched over a wooden support, Asian screens are a type of object that can require consultations including conservators in many different specialties. Collaboration between paper, furniture, painting, and gilding conservators can be critical to determine the appropriate treatment and achieve successful results when treating Asian screens.
Made of delicate fibers, folded, and carried in the pockets of soldiers, Japanese “good luck flags”, commonly known in Japan as yosegaki hinomaru, were parting gifts for soldiers deployed into battle. These flags are evidence of a long standing tradition among Japanese servicemen. The Japanese National Flag, commonly known in Japan as hinomaru, was used to facilitate these messages of prayers and well-wishes from loved ones, so that the soldier could endure the difficult times ahead; yosegaki, refers to the gathered writing, often inscribed in a pattern radiating from the center of the flag. A yosegaki hinomaru experienced only a fraction of the harrowing perils of war experienced by the soldiers who carried them to the front lines. It is remarkable that these flags have survived to continue the story of the soldiers who brought them into battle.