A painting by early twentieth-century Chicago artist Marie Blanke was significantly brightened after a good cleaning and a fresh coat of varnish. The original canvas, which was deformed and brittle from age, was flattened with a combination of heat, suction, humidity, and weight techniques, and then strengthened by being lined to a prepared canvas. The painting was put back into its original frame, the miters of which were stabilized.
Art has the incredible ability to take hold of you, transfix you, and then transport you into another state of mind. That’s exactly what happens to one of our clients when he gazes at “The Trinity with the Virgin and Two Donors,” a painting attributed by one expert to Marten de Vos, a Flemish history painter and portraitist of the late 16th century.
As the weather grows colder here in Chicago, we are constantly dreaming of our next getaway. One classic that captures our wanderlust is Audrey Hepburn’s “Roman Holiday.” Unfortunately, Rome is a little far, but luckily, we had the opportunity this month to watch the treatment of a Greco-Roman painting instead.
We are continuing our Pigment of the Month series with another autumn-appropriate color, a rich brown called Sienna. This natural pigment is one that dates back millennia when it was used in some of the first known cave paintings. Sienna is made from clay composed of iron oxide and manganese oxide, two minerals that are common in soil. In fact, Sienna gets its name from the Italian ‘terra di Siena,’ meaning “earth of Siena.” Siena, a small city in the region of Italy known as Tuscany, also used to manufacture the pigment. Other names to which this pigment is referred are terra rossa (red earth) or terra gialla (yellow earth).
This month at The Conservation Center, we were inspired by the marvelous hues of autumn, as our hometown of Chicago is being swiftly engulfed by red, orange, and yellow leaves. So we decided to revive our Pigment of the Month segment. For the month of October, we chose a beautiful and historically fascinating yellow pigment- perfect for fall- with a very interesting story behind it.
In 2016, The Center had the pleasure of working on a personal piece for Kerry James Marshall titled Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness and we were very honored when the artist gave us the opportunity to work on another piece from his personal collection. “Ipso Facto” is a painting executed on two plywood panels joined together with batons and screws. The diptych is primed and painted with what appears to be moderately applied acrylic. Both panels depict a figure’s rear. The left panel is painted in white, with various colors playfully peeking through the brush strokes, and the other is painted in black surrounded by small white flowers with intimate red and green details. The piece is unvarnished and while unsigned, the painting is characteristic of Marshall’s work.
Commonly referred to as “Mr. Chicago” by his friends, Ed Paschke is one of the Windy City’s most celebrated artists. Born and raised in Chicago, Paschke earned his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1961, and after traveling to Mexico, Europe, and New York, returned to SAIC for his MFA in 1970. Some of Paschke’s earliest artistic influences were the animations of Walt Disney, as well as the colorful caricatures the artist’s father drew on the letters he sent home from Europe during WWII.
Though Roger Brown was born in Alabama and split his time between homes in Chicago, Michigan, and California, the Windy City always held a special place in his heart. Brown moved to Chicago in 1962 to attend the American Academy of Art, where he completed a commercial design program. Brown then enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he received his BFA in 1968 and MFA in 1970. During this time, Brown and his colleagues (many of whom would become part of the group known as the Chicago Imagists) began to nurture an appreciation for self-taught artists, seeing them not as “outsider” artists, but as worthy of respect and inclusion into the mainstream art world. This, coupled with his travels throughout the United States, Africa, Europe, and Russia, had a profound influence on Brown’s art. Though his works are often bright and simple in composition, the artist’s practice frequently presents a darkly satirical view of contemporary life and American culture.
As a Chicago-based company, it’s always a treat when pieces come to us with a bit of local art history. Recently, we had the opportunity to restore a large painting by James Allen St. John, a Chicago artist who is most commonly known for his illustrations of the popular Edgar Rice Burroughs "Tarzan" series.
As the skies clear up and bright summer days begin, we felt it was only fitting to feature a landscape that recently underwent a similar experience. When the painting first came to The Center, our conservators quickly noted that the varnish layer had discolored, and the piece would likely brighten significantly if the varnish was removed.