Stieglitz and Marin: Together, Apart, and Together Again, Part 2

In this three part series, Conservation Assistant Caroline Hoover outlines the process of treating a photogravure by Marius de Zayas. Read Part 1 here.

post 2_before treatment

Marius de Zayas, Alfred Stieglitz and John Marin, 1914, Photogravure

CONDITION
This photogravure on Japanese tissue was attached in the top left corner to a backing paper with a European watermark so that it could be included in the Camera Work book. Due to the single attachment, however, the tissue had swung on this point from the back page and this action had caused creasing around the attachment. The backing paper was brittle and had many losses around the edges which left the photogravure vulnerable. In addition, both the tissue and the backing paper had discolored with age. Since the piece could not be displayed with the other seven photogravures by de Zayas in its present condition, the decision was made to treat the work so that it could be included in the set.

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Detail of watermark on backing paper

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Removing photogravure from backing page

CONSERVATION TREATMENT
First, the Japanese tissue was carefully separated from the backing paper using a Goretex sandwich and a microspatula. The Goretex sandwich softened the adhesive without wetting the paper. When the two papers were separated, the backing paper’s sensitivity to the ink in the photogravure was revealed. Both photogravure images, from the adjacent images in the Camera Work volume appeared on the front and back of the European paper.

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(left) backing page BT reverse, back print transfer (right) detail of adhesive stain

The backing paper was washed in alkaline water to remove any discoloration and acidity. It was then dried between felts.

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Conservator Caroline Hoover sprays the backing page before washing in ~pH 8 water

The Japanese tissue was humidified in a Goretex sandwich and then also washed in alkaline water to remove any discoloration.

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Humidifying Japanese tissue before washing

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Washing and drying the Japanese tissue

After washing, both papers appeared lighter in color. The European paper regained flexibility.

Stieglitz and Marin: Together, Apart, and Together Again, Part 1

In this three part series, Conservation Assistant Caroline Hoover outlines the process of treating a photogravure by Marius de Zayas. 

photo 1 - 2

(left and middle) Marius de Zayas, Alfred Stieglitz and John Marin, 1914. Photogravure, 22.1 x 16.5 cm. Gift of Fern M. Schad, 2004 (right) Camera Work, the source of the piece

ABOUT THE ART
This photogravure, Alfred Stieglitz and John Marin, is a work of art that was made from an original drawing by Marius de Zayas and printed onto very thin Japanese tissue. This piece was included in a collection of artists’ works published in the periodical Camera Work XLVI, 1914. Camera Work was a well known publication put together by Stieglitz to support and promote photography as an art form. He included photogravures because they were made from original negatives and often supervised by the artist or even at times printed by the artist himself. As such, they represented the original works very closely. The publication showcased the best examples of photogravure printing.

WHAT IS PHOTOGRAVURE?
The photogravure process is the transfer of the original photo negative to a transparency as a positive image. It is then contact printed onto light sensitive paper from which it is then transferred to a copper plate as a negative image. The plate is etched in acid, inked up, and printed as a positive image. As you can imagine, it was a very sophisticated and complicated process that required a lot of finesse.

Conservation Gets Ready for Made in the USA

Conservators at The Phillips Collection have been getting ready for Made In The USA, the exhibition celebrating the return of the collection’s American masterworks after almost five years on tour. A few works that did not go on tour but will be featured at the Phillips this spring and summer have recently received attention to treat structural issues such as canvas distortions and insecure paint. In addition, all of the works required cleaning to remove dulling layers of surface grime.

Setting down raised cracks and consolidating insecure paint on "No. 9" by Bradley Walker Tomlin. Top: The painting is raised on blocks and a suction apparatus is placed behind the canvas to aid in consolidation and drying. Bottom: Adhesive is wicked into the paint cracks using a small brush. Suction from the reverse helps pull the adhesive into the cracks as well as to pull lifting paint into plane as the adhesive dries.

Setting down raised cracks and consolidating insecure paint on “No. 9″ (1952) by Bradley Walker Tomlin.
Top: The painting is raised on blocks and a suction apparatus is placed behind the canvas to aid in consolidation and drying.
Bottom: Adhesive is wicked into the paint cracks using a small brush. Suction from the reverse helps pull the adhesive into the cracks as well as to pull lifting paint into plane as the adhesive dries.

FieneStructural

Structural treatment to reduce canvas distortions in “Fall of Old Houses” (undated) by Ernest Fiene.
Top left: The painting is carefully removed from the stretcher and the folded over edges are flattened using controlled moisture and gentle heat from a heated spatula.
Top Right: Strips of linen canvas are prepared.
Bottom: With the painting off its stretcher and laying face-down on the table, strips of linen canvas are attached to reinforce the tacking edges. The painting will be placed in a work stretcher so that all of the canvas is accessible, and the distortions will be relaxed and reduced using controlled humidification and suction.

P1010310

Using a soft sponge to remove grime from the surface of “Gray Buildings” (1925) by Niles Spencer.

frameretouching

Watercolors are used to retouch minor losses on the frame for “Grey Buildings” by Niles Spencer.

P1010308

Removing dark grey grime from the unvarnished surface of “Catalpa in Bloom” (undated) by Anne Goldthwaite.

After cleaning, applying wax to the surface of "Ancestor" (1958), by Seymour Lipton.

After cleaning, applying wax to the surface of “Ancestor” (1958), by Seymour Lipton.

Other works treated for the touring exhibition in the past five years include:

Josef Albers, Homage to the Square (1957)

Milton Avery, Black Sea (1959)

Alexander Calder,  Red Polygons (ca. 1950)

Stuart Davis, Eggbeater No. 4 (1928)William Gropper, Minorities (1938 or 1939)

Marsden Hartley, Off the Banks at Night (1942)

Edward Hicks, The Peaceable Kingdom (between 1845 and 1846)

Stefan Hirsch, Mill Town (ca. 1925)

Karl Knaths, Deer in Sunset  (1946)

Walt Kuhn, Plumes (1931)

Seymour Lipton, Ancestor (1958)

Loren MacIver, New York (1952)

Peppino Mangravite, Political Exiles (ca. 1928)

Grandma Moses, Hoosick Falls in Winter (1944)

Alfonso Ossorio, Mother and Child (1951)

Theodoros Stamos, Sacrifice of Kronos (1948)

Bradley Walker Tomlin, No. 8 (1952)

Jack Tworkov, Highland (1959)