Painting With Wine: A Romantic French Work Conserved

Recently, The Conservation Center was introduced to a little-known, yet charming, oil painting entitled The Musician by a French artist named Louis-Armand Dupont. "I believe Dupont started an art school. I don't know his other artworks; all I know is he loved to paint," shared Alice Morales, the painting's owner, as she discussed the background of the work she brought to us. "I discovered he was actually a wine producer." With a little research, we found the winery is still active and has a portrait of Louis-Armand proudly displayed on the wall. Located in the Pays d’Auge region of Normandy, the Louis Dupont Family Estate is run by the living descendants of Dupont, though their research found records of their family in the area as far back as 1703. 

Purchased more than 50 years ago by her parents at Chicago Art Galleries, Alice inherited the painting from her mother after she passed. For 10 years the painting hung on her wall, until one fateful day it separated from the drywall, crashing into a marble table and breaking an oriental fish bowl during its descent. The frame was completely destroyed in the fall. The canvas detached from the strainer, causing severe deformation throughout. Alice had another painting treated by The Center a few years back, so she knew right where to take The Musician in the wake of this disaster.

With deformations in The Musician's canvas, mechanical cracking throughout the lower half of the work, an inadequate auxiliary support, all of which is compounded by severe frame abrasions with moderate paint loss, there was much to be done to stabilize the piece. Before the canvas was removed from the auxiliary support, varnish had to be removed and the surface and the reverse needed to be cleaned of grime. The surface, that is the painting itself, was cleaned using a combination of appropriate aqueous solutions and dry methods. The reverse required a soft brush and vacuum. The canvas was then removed from the auxiliary support, and the edges were consolidated using conservation adhesives. Free of its support, addressing the canvas’s deformations was the next step in the process. Utilizing a combination of heat, suction, humidity, and weight techniques, it was flattened as best as possible before being lined to a prepared canvas using conservation adhesives, thus further reinforcing the integrity and stability of the original canvas. The existing strainer was replaced with a new, custom-made stretcher, providing adequate support for the canvas. Using solvents the varnish layer was then removed. Losses to the paint layer of The Musician were filled and textured using a conservation grade fill material. A preliminary coat of varnish was then applied to saturate the paint layer before inpainting with reversible conservation paints was carried out in the areas of loss and abrasions. Finally, a second coat of varnish was applied to integrate the surface gloss.   

In the end, the original frame was so badly damaged from the fall, The Center recommended that Ms. Morales look into replacement frame options. After a framing consultation with The Center’s staff, she selected a new frame to house her piece. Our custom framing and fabrications team made sure the hanging hardware was reinforced to ensure the piece wouldn’t fall off the wall again.      

The Musician has been returned to Ms. Morales much to her delight. “I’m more than satisfied. The results are very dramatic and the painting is much more vibrant now.”