Read part one in this series here.
In order to remove the adhesive from the margins surrounding the printed image of The Studio Table (1923), conservation treatment was undertaken. First, the print was humidified and placed upon a wet blotter infused with pH adjusted water. Blotter poultices were added on top of the adhesive around the margins. Once the adhesive had sufficiently softened, it was gently coaxed off using a dental tool and the signatures were revealed. The print was then left to dry between felts. Click on the thumbnails below to view the process. Read part three tomorrow…
Caroline Hoover, Conservation Assistant
1. During Treatment (DT) Humidification between Goretex.
2. DT Preparation of correct pH wash water.
3. DT Spraying the back before washing.
4. DT Blotter washing using correct pH water.
5. DT Blotter poltices to remove adhesive.
6. DT Removing adhesive covering signature with dental tool.
7. DT Further adhesive reduction with cotton.
8. DT Blotter from washing showing removed discoloration.
Print before treatment. Georges Braque, The Studio Table, 1923, Color aquatint on paper 23 x 8 1/2 in.; 58.42 x 21.59 cm.. Acquisition date unknown.
This etching and aquatint, The Studio Table (1923), was done on RIVES BFK paper by Jacques Villon, a significant printmaker during the early 20th century, in collaboration with Georges Braque. In 1922, the Bernheim Jeune dealers and publishers asked Villon to create a series of 40 intaglio plates after modern artists’ works. This print was the 4th pull in an edition of 200 made in 1923 after Georges Braque’s painting Guitar and Still Life on a Guéridon (1922) in the collection of the Met.
Villon used very advanced and complicated techniques to reproduce the texture and aesthetic of the paintings his prints represented. It appears that three plates with a total of seven different colors of ink were used; the registration holes that kept these plates lined up during printing are visible below. Two different techniques were used to create this work. One was etching, a process where a copper plate is covered with wax and then scratched into using an etching needle and bathed in acid to bite into these lines. Villon also used aquatint, a process where a layer of acid resistant particles is spread across the surface of the copper plate as the ground. The artist will use a stop-out varnish to allow the acid to bite around the particles for different lengths of time to create darker or lighter toned areas. A unique tool called a rocker was used to create the dashed line texture, which can be seen in the details below. Click on the thumbnails below to see details of the print.
Detail illustrating printing textures
Detail illustrating printing textures.
Detail illustrating registration pinhole in print
There was a significant layer of adhesive that obscured the margins of the print. Using infrared imaging, we were able to see through the adhesive that both Villon and Braque signed the bottom of this print. In other editions, both artists did not sign the print, making the Phillips’ work particularly significant. The decision was made to remove the adhesive to show these signatures using a series of controlled steps that can be seen in more detail in the following posts. Read part two tomorrow…
Caroline Hoover, Conservation Assistant
Detail illustrating excess adhesive in the margin.
Signatures of Braque, left and Villon, right.
Read parts one and two of this series.
Results of Treatment
Treatment resulted in a subtle but significant improvement to the picture’s appearance. Greater contrast between the dark colors in the background and the pastel “petals” in the foreground returns a sense of vibrancy and movement to the composition. In addition, although they remain inherently fragile, consolidation left the paint layers more stable–improving the overall condition of the picture.
No. 8 seen Before Treatment, left, and After Treatment, right
Left: The back of the painting showing the canvas and stretcher. Right: The back of the painting with a protective foam-core backing, attached to the stretcher to add support and protect the back of the canvas from dust and blows.