Treatment of a Braque Hidden Treasure: Part 1, Finding a Signature

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Detail illustrating excess adhesive in the margin.

Signatures of Braque, left and Villon, right.

Signatures of Braque, left and Villon, right.

 

Across the Way

Andrea Way, Rogue, 1991, black ink and felt tip pen on prepared paper

Andrea Way, Rogue, 1991. Black ink and felt tip pen on prepared paper, 25 3/4 x 40 1/2 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Gift of Dr.and Mrs. Harvey Sherber, 1993.

Both of the works in the Phillips by Washington, D.C., artist Andrea Way traveled just three miles up Massachusetts Avenue to be a part of her retrospective now on view at American University’s Katzen Arts Center. Michael O’Sullivan writes in the Washington Post:

“Way’s art is layered, and it is compounded by secondary rules, by accident and by what the artist calls the introduction of ‘points of departure’ to her rules.”

Rehousing a Diego Rivera Watercolor

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: Patricia Favero

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 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

Step 3: Pasting out the Japanese paper hinges with wheat starch paste

Continue reading “Rehousing a Diego Rivera Watercolor” »