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!