In the summer of 2012, The Phillips Collection received the generous gift of an original Diego Rivera watercolor from Kerry H. Stowell. The watercolor is executed on delicate Japanese paper and depicts a poignant child labor scene. The artwork had become wrinkled in its old matting and frame over time. Whenever a new artwork enters the museum’s collection, the conservator examines its condition. The picture receives treatment when necessary and is rehoused in museum quality materials. In this case, the Rivera picture required removal from an acidic, poor quality backing board and flattening before being hinged into a new mat.
After removing the old paper hinges and flattening the paper, new hinges of Japanese paper are prepared. Since the artwork will be floated in its new mat, the Japanese paper is toned with acrylic paints in order to be less visible. The following photos illustrate eleven steps that were taken to prepare the newly acquired artwork for exhibition at the museum.
Step 1: Hinges are toned to match the original color of the artwork so they will be invisible. Photos: Sylvia Albro
Step 2: Conservation technician, Caroline Hoover, prepares the hinges and wheat starch paste for the new mount
Step 3: Pasting out the Japanese paper hinges with wheat starch paste
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Arthur Dove‘s influence on 20th century animation?
(left) Arthur Dove, Coal Carrier, 1929 or 1930. Oil on canvas, Oil on canvas, 20 x 26 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1930. (left) Domo, mascot of NHK (Japanese Broadcasting Corporation).
(left) Arthur Dove, 1941, 1941. Wax emulsion on canvas, 25 x 35 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1942. (right) Looney Tunes' Marvin the Martian (with Bugs Bunny).
Conservation treatment photos of "Leopard Hunter", undated, by Jean Charlot. Oil on canvas, 11 x 14 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1930.
Passing through the galleries last week, I was pleasantly surprised to come across this little painting, Leopard Hunter by Jean Charlot, featured in the current installation of American painters in exotic locales. Leopard Hunter is one of the first paintings I conserved when I started working at the Phillips, and this is the first time since then I’ve seen it on display.
The photo at left taken before treatment shows how I received the painting: years of accumulated grime and a discolored, non-original varnish dulled the bright paint colors. The picture was also in a pretty fragile state. Sometime during its life, something had scraped across its delicate surface, leaving scratches, paint losses, and insecure paint surrounding the losses. The worst damage was in the face of the hunter.
To conserve the painting, I first consolidated the insecure paint using a clear, stable adhesive to prevent any further loss of original material. After carefully removing the surface dirt and the yellowed varnish, I used a fine putty to fill the areas of paint loss and recreate the thickness and texture of the missing paint layers. As I inpainted (or retouched) the filled losses, an old photo of Leopard Hunter taken before the painting was damaged helped me to reconstruct the original appearance of the picture as closely as possible .
It’s a treat to see Leopard Hunter on the wall again. I hope it enjoys its time out in the wild!
Details of the leopard hunter's face, showing damages before treatment on the left, and after treatment on the right.