The Rediscovery and Restoration of a Forgotten Lester W. Bentley Mural

The Rediscovery and Restoration of a Forgotten Lester W. Bentley Mural

Here at the Center, the conservation of murals is something in which we take great pride. In the early 1990s, our CEO Heather Becker co-founded a large-scale mural preservation project which restored a selection of Progressive and WPA-Era Murals in Chicago Public Schools. Since the completion of the project, The Center has continued to treat murals of various materials, time periods, subjects, and sizes.

For this reason, we were especially excited when the Ruth St. John and John Dunham West Foundation contacted us about restoring a mural painted by Lester W. Bentley located on the West Foundation’s property.

Frederic Clay Bartlett's 56 Panels: A Gothic Chase And Feast

Frederic Clay Bartlett's 56 Panels: A Gothic Chase And Feast

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. 

Margaret A. Hittle: Progressive Era Muralist

Margaret A. Hittle: Progressive Era Muralist

In 1994, The Conservation Center, received a phone call that would put into motion one of the largest mural restoration projects Chicago has ever seen. At the request of a teacher from Lane Tech High School, TCC staff were called to examine a torn painting at the school. That painting turned out to be one of 66 murals that are part of Lane Tech’s collection of Progressive (1904-1933) and New Deal era (1933-1943) murals. Those 66 murals were only the beginning of the trove of murals in the Chicago Public Schools that had been all but forgotten. 

Don't Do It Yourself: Cautionary Tales of At-Home Art Treatments

Don't Do It Yourself: Cautionary Tales of At-Home Art Treatments

There are few rites of spring more satisfying than the annual clean. And while spotless living spaces make a house a home, many of us unfortunately have to use harsh chemicals and solvents to achieve that goal. The application of products found under the kitchen sink can lead to chemical reactions on the surface of art objects that can prove to be quite serious, resulting in detrimental losses that are usually so much greater than the reward of a home cleaning approach. When it comes to caring for your art and antiques while freshening up around the house, we strongly advise our readers to adhere to the “DDIY” rule—Don’t Do it Yourself—and leave the job to professional art conservators.

Lucienne From the Bloch: Conserving a Modern Mural for a Jewish Temple

Lucienne From the Bloch: Conserving a Modern Mural for a Jewish Temple

In honor of Pesach (Passover) earlier this month, we’re highlighting a major conservation treatment for Temple Emanuel, located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Conservation Center’s team worked tirelessly on-site and in our laboratories to help restore a massive 1,000 square-foot mural that covered the entire expanse of the rear wall of the synagogue. Painted on multiple lightweight wood panels by the Swiss-born American artist Lucienne Bloch (1909–1999), this modern mural stands as a testament to a dynamic time in religious architecture that aimed to keep up with societal trends in art and construction.

Slide Show: Deinstalling and Examining Lucienne Bloch's Epic Mural

Slide Show: Deinstalling and Examining Lucienne Bloch's Epic Mural

In 2012, significant leaking from the roof caused severe water damage of the plywood panels, causing extreme warping, staining, and delamination of the veneers from the panels. The mural itself, which was painted using water-soluble paints (something similar to gouache), started to drip down across the panels as soon as water entered the space. Devastated, Temple Emanuel contacted The Conservation Center to perform an on-site assessment to best determine how to conserve Bloch’s work. Years of constant use and handling of the doors and tracks around the mural had also caused issues beyond the water damage—fingerprints had darkened and smudged areas of the paint, to the extent that there were significant losses that needed to be addressed. There was also a thin layer of grime that needed to be removed from the panels. However, because of the nature of the paint used, most methods of cleaning would strip away the design. Eventually, six panels came back to The Center’s lab in Chicago to undergo treatment.

Cleaning The Merchandise Mart's Epic "Merchandise Around the World" Mural

Cleaning The Merchandise Mart's Epic "Merchandise Around the World" Mural

The Merchandise Mart, towering 25 stories at its highest point and occupying four million square feet, rests along the Chicago River as the epicenter of downtown Chicago life, culture, media, and business. Finished in 1930 and massive in its construction, The Mart serves as a monument to early 20th-century merchandising and architecture. Even after more than 80 years, this Art Deco landmark continues to be a leading retailing and wholesale destination, attracting people from all over the world.

The Conservation Center to Conserve a Long-Lost Piece of Wisconsin History

The Conservation Center to Conserve a Long-Lost Piece of Wisconsin History

The Conservation Center is pleased to announce that it will be the official conservator for a treasured, but almost forgotten, 1940s-era mural by artist Santos Zingale. The momentous, three-panel oil on canvas that depicts the arrival of Racine’s founder, Gilbert Knapp, was recently discovered after a fire disaster that occurred at Mitchell Elementary School in Racine, Wisconsin. Measuring about 12 feet by about 43 feet, The Landing of Captain Knapp at Racinewas originally on view in a multipurpose library room at Mitchell. Due to a 1950s modernization effort, the mural ended up in the school’s basement—until disaster relief workers found the piece nearly six decades later. The Center is expecting to spend more than 9–12 months on this project.

Hello New York City! Introducing the Art Conservation Shuttle Service

Hello New York City! Introducing the Art Conservation Shuttle Service

Start spreading the news: The Conservation Center is truly excited to announce a remarkable partnership with Crozier Fine Arts—New York's foremost fine and decorative arts storage and logistics company. Together, we have launched the Art Conservation Shuttle, fully connecting The Center's interdisciplinary conservators in one the nation's largest art conservation labs to our friends and growing client base on the East Coast. New York's art community can now enjoy museum-quality, art conservation services with an efficient turnaround timetable at competitive costs.

Conserving Western Illinois University's "A New Deal for Illinois"

Conserving Western Illinois University's "A New Deal for Illinois"

In spring of 2013, The Conservation Center was invited to assess the condition of Western Illinois University’s important Federal Art Project collection. After more than four months of conservation in our labs, 40 of those works were curated into a major exhibition titled A New Deal for Illinois, which was on view at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa, last fall. Now, WIU is prepared to welcome home its prized collection on January 18. An insightful video, produced by University Television, documents this extraordinary collaboration between WIU and The Center.

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