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.
The face of our first president, George Washington, has become familiar due to the immortalizing portrait of him painted by Gilbert Stuart in the mid-18th century. What isn’t familiar is the name Jane Stuart, Gilbert’s daughter, who was a painter herself. Although she created her own compositions and even held her own studio in Boston in the mid-19th century, Jane is best known for the meticulous copies made of her father’s work in an attempt to help keep his legacy alive. Recently, one of Jane's copies came through The Center’s doors with a substantial round tear below the portrait's left eye.
While The Center is always excited to work on challenging contemporary projects in which new media and methods are used, we still enjoy the oldies and goodies. Recently our Senior Paintings Conservator, Amber Schabdach conserved L’adorazione dei magi, an oil on panel piece circa 1600. L’adorazione dei magi, or The Adoration of the Magi, was brought to The Center to address handling damage.
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.
Recently, Senior Paintings Conservator, Amber Schabdach, conserved the original cover art for the first edition of pulp magazine Adventure, which was published in 1910.The owner of this unusual painting started reading pulp magazines almost 40 years ago, and his budding interest quickly grew into a collection of pulp magazines and eventually, the original cover art as well. “I always enjoyed the cover art, and in the early 1990's had an opportunity to buy my first two pulp paintings… from that point on, I was hooked on collecting original pulp art.” Pulp magazines reached the pinnacle of their popularity during the early 20th century.
Gertrude Abercrombie (1909 - 1977) was the only child of two opera singers who happened to be on tour in Texas the day she was born. While they continued to relocate throughout her early childhood, the family eventually settled in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago where Abercrombie lived for the remainder of her life. While Abercrombie had some formal art training (she took courses at The School at the Art Institute of Chicago and the American Academy of Art) and she worked in art advertising for a time. Here she quickly developed a distinct style that was all her own, taking inspiration from the Chicago jazz scene.
When Joe went down into the basement of his girlfriend’s house to repair a leaking pipe, he would have never guessed that within hours he would be at The Conservation Center’s doors with a striking, but severely deteriorated, painting of Superman in hand. It was wet, stained, moldy, and even had insects living behind the frame. Fortunately, The Center’s team was at the ready to stop this kryptonite before it could do its worst.
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.
This month we continue our “Pigment of the Month” series, detailing the origins, history, and eventual discontinuation of pigments once common on the artists’ palette. In this next installment, we explore the history of Emerald Green, and the chemical composition that made it both brilliant and lethal.