At The Conservation Center, we love hearing the stories our clients share about their artworks, and learning more about family histories. This was certainly true in the case of a portrait that was recently treated by our Painting Department. The sitter in the portrait is Marshall Field II, and the piece was brought to us for conservation treatment by his great-grandson, Marshall Field V.
This sunny coastal scene was painted by Michalis Economou, a Greek artist who first learned painting techniques under the tutelage of Konstantinos Volanakis, also known as the “father of Greek seascape painting.” Although living in Paris for nearly 5 years, Economou’s oeuvre consists mainly of serene, rustic landscapes.
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.
After seeing his work for the first time in the 1960’s, Ronald, a client of The Center, has had a deep appreciation for the art of Leon Golub. When a fellow artist personally introduced Ronald and his parents to Golub, they were immediately taken with his work. “When we met him we were so impressed with his technique and his subjects, that we immediately bought three examples of his work.” One of the three paintings, titled Burnt Man, arrived at The Center over fifty years later to undergo treatment for an unstable paint layer.
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.
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.
Although Chicago may be without the standard layer of snow for this time of the year, we here are The Conservation Center are lucky enough to have beautiful images around to remind us of a pristine snowfall. A client recently brought in just such a painting, though it wasn’t quite the impeccable snow scene it once was. Years of grime build-up and thick, discolored varnish had turned the crisp white snowfall into a dingy, brown landscape. But with some time, patience, and careful chemistry, Senior Paintings Conservator Amber Smith was able to bring the original colors back to this Oak Park snow scene.