It’s March and we’re celebrating Women’s History Month with three articles featuring the work of female artists! These articles have been shortened for your convenience. Click the titles or photos to read the full length articles, or click here to view our archive.
Many of us have things passed down from our family, maybe stuffed in boxes in the attic or basement, that are treasures to us. These treasures, though maybe not valuable in the eyes of the public (or art market), are priceless to us. “Everybody thinks their Great Aunt Margaret was a great artist,” said one of our clients. Yet sometimes, as that same client found out, it turns out to be true.
Our client’s Great Aunt Margaret Lowengrund was an American artist working from the 1930’s until her death in 1957. She showed works in Philadelphia, New York City, Woodstock, and abroad, most notably at the Salon d’Automne in Paris in 1927.
Lowengrund was also an editor for Art Digest magazine and became well-known through her work in print-making. As a rising medium in the United States, there were few facilities for artists at the time to create prints like etchings and lithographs, so Lowengrund founded and directed a communal print-making studio called the Contemporaries Graphic Art Center.
The piece our client had treated at The Center was a lithograph Lowengrund probably produced while she was in Paris. The print depicts the interior of the Café au Lapin Agile, a famous Parisian café where great artists and thinkers of the turn of the century went to socialize.
Surface cleaning of the entire piece
The print was submerged in a water bath of deionized water to help facilitate the removal of the mat from the piece
Residual adhesive on the back of the piece was removed with conservation-grade solvents
The print went through a few more water baths to reduce discoloration
The print was transferred to the light bleaching station and sat under artificial light for around 8 hours to lighten the piece and reduce staining
The print was dried between blotters to prevent distortion
For storage reasons, the print was not framed
A friend and long-time supporter of The Center recently brought in a piece to update its display. The artwork, which is composed of many individual artworks— plaques with various texts by Jenny Holzer— was to be rearranged and given new framing materials. The result is a work that is more cohesive and visually pleasing.
Jenny Holzer, a Neo-Conceptualist artist, is known for her text-based artworks and often works with a wide variety of media. The plaques in this particular piece, titled “Truisms,” are small panels of wood. The texts on these plaques are aphoristic sayings in black or red all-cap letters, such as “YOU ARE GUILELESS IN YOUR DREAMS,” or “PROTECT ME FROM WHAT I WANT.”
We worked with the client to determine the new arrangement for the plaques. Since it is a very intimate piece with deeply psychological sayings, we knew that each plaque would mean something different to everyone and that the order would be very important. The client was also able to collaborate on spacing between plaques, and the style of the frame and mat.
The plaques were carefully removed from the original mount
The plaques were mounted with sturdy hinges to an archival 4-ply mat, and spacers were added to set them back from the glass and create a shadowbox effect
The piece was assembled with anti-reflective and UV protective Museum Glass to highlight the dimensional quality of the plaques
The piece was installed in a contemporary frame with closed corners and finished in Satin White, backed with a strainer to support the package
An archival Coroplast backing board was attached to the reverse for additional protection, along with new hanging hardware
A painting by early twentieth-century Chicago artist Marie Blanke was significantly brightened after a good cleaning and a fresh coat of varnish.
When the conservators conducted their initial examination of the painting, they discovered that there was not only a remnant of a label that was nailed to the stretcher, but that the painting extended to the very edge of the canvas, indicating that the painting may have been previously cut down before it was secured to the current stretcher.
Each corner of the canvas was torn, and the canvas overall was brittle and degraded. The corners of the frame were coming apart as well. The gesso on the frame was flaking as well as some areas of paint on the canvas. Covering the painting was a synthetic resin that was matte and dull.
Marie Blanke was involved with many art clubs and guilds in Chicago; she even founded some of her own art clubs, mostly catering to women interested in art. She studied the School of the Art Institute of Chicago on scholarship, and exhibited there many times, among other galleries and organizations in the city.
Mostly known as a still life and landscape painter, Blanke also taught design, applied art, and freehand drawing at the newly established Lewis Institute (now the Illinois Institute of Chicago).
Flaking paint was locally consolidated with conservation adhesives
The painting reverse was cleaned of grime using a soft brush and vacuum
The canvas was removed from its support
The canvas was flattened with heat, suction, humidity, and weight
The original canvas was lined with a prepared canvas using the adhesive Beva 371
The canvas was restretched and the original varnish was removed
The painting was surface celaned and a new coat of varnish was applied