Saturday, October 24, 2009

Surprise, surprise... they did what I asked!

As the previous blog entry said, I went to see the masterpiece painting that had dropped off the wall. So guess what happened? BOTH bolts that were holding the hanging hooks into the wall got RIPPED out of the wall (they were obviously NOT enough for the weight of this large painting) and the whole thing, painting and original frame, came crashing to the ground! Fortunately when it hit the ground, it didn't fall over onto the items on the desk nearby (whew!). So, when I got there it was still on the floor,upright, leaning against the wall where it had fallen with all its debris. The lower right corner hit first giving the whole thing a good shake and busting open a bit wider the join in the frame. And, as you can see in the photo, a chunk of paint fell off about the size of 4 quarters all lined up. I was surprised that they actually did what I asked! They put the loose pieces of original paint in a film (slide) box. I can put those pieces back. I'm pretty good at doing puzzles.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Damage and tragedy in a storm..

Just think! The other day a storm hit a town in central CA so forcefully that a Masterpiece was knocked off the wall of the museum! It's all on the QT of course... but I've been "summoned" tomorrow post haste (spelled correctly?) to assess the situation for the insurance company. My instructions to the curator were to scoop up all the knocked off paint and put it in a film canister (does anyone even have those around anymore?!) and I can put all the paint pieces back in place so there is minimal touch up (inpainting) needed... which could affect the value depending on how much there was. Tomorrow, as I inspect this large great painting I'll have with me my bottle on consolidation adhesive to do a little ER action on the scene. Question, do your paintings have strong hanging hardware and wire... and solidly mounted hooks in the wall? So, tomorrow, on the road again...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fabulous new painting by Teichert found in a garage!

The director of the Historical Dept. of the LDS church recently told me a story that someone "had found" a painting by Minerva Teichert in their garage... whaaaaat?! "Found?" And this wasn't a little sketch in a box... this was a major painting of Christ blessing the children at the bountiful Temple in 3 Nephi, 48" x 54" in size. Imagine having something like this in your garage with a leaky roof and bicycles and junk pushed up against it?!

Our labor of love was to clean it, stabilize any deterioration (stop flaking and reduce cracks), varnish etc. The final result should be a painting that you will see in the future in many publications, posters etc. Maybe you'll even get a copy of it for your meeting house? You heard about it first, here... at the moment of its discovery and saving conservation efforts.

Value? Given the prosperity in the church (hungry buyers in an auction?) and the rarity of such great paintings I would guess at least $1 million... but that's just a guess. I haven't shown you the whole painting in the photo because of copyright issues.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Deep in Church Archives...

I just got back from SLC where I was ushered through the new Church Library of the LDS Church by the Head of Conservation. What a beautiful building. He gave me the tour while we talked shop. We looked at the very cool (sub-zero) storage vaults and , of course, the conservation labs. While talking about equipment, layout etc, they pulled from a secured container a 1st Edition of the Book of Mormon. Did you know that most 1st Editions are missing their original title pages? I think they get sold separately. This one was missing too. But on the blank page in front, there was an inscription in the hand of the Prophet Joseph Smith dedicating the book to one of the three women mentioned in the Doctrine and Covenants. Which woman owned this book? It was a bit of a "time machine" experience to handle the pages and think of where its been. The Head Conservator had just completed its treatments for preservation/restoration.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Jewel in the Rough

Today in the lab, among the many deadlines awaiting our attention; came a jewel in the rough.  The cleaning of this painting is astounding.  Coming across paintings who's varnish is severly discolored and grimey, it always amazes me when we get a differance like this.  A yellow varnish can obliterate detail, makes beautiful, kills the pinks, and shallows depth of field. Not to mention adds visual weight and confuses the artist's original intent of a light and airy landscape.

Friday, October 9, 2009

I shouldn't be but I was startled!

I've been cleaning paintings for 35 years and I shouldn't be surprised when doing a cleaning test but when gorgeous baby blue original color comes popping out from underneath a cruddy brown varnish, it always surprises me! What's more interesting about this photo is (if you'll notice the darker streaks in the sky), there is left over dark varnish from when someone else tried to clean it before. I can't believe they thought this painting was clean, can you? BTW, the only safe thing I can recommend if you are a doer-your-selfer are Q-tips and saliva. Any cruddy surface that requires a more aggressive cleaning could be damaged in the process so let a professional conservator look at it. In history, more paintings have been ruined by inept cleaning that by all the volcanoes, hurricanes, earthquakes... and grandkids all put together.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Oops! Spilled my drink on a painting...

I remember a Pissarro at a VIP reception in a museum gallery that got splashed in an over enthusiastic New Year's toast. I've seen paintings in dining rooms with old mashed potatoes dried on the surface. And this nice lady (photo at right) had both dark brown coffee colored drips and whitish solid crusty stuff. Fortunately in all these cases, a good varnish protected the surface of the paint and made removal of the mess not only possible but easy. If a painting you own gets caught in a food fight, call a conservator. Don't hit it with 409!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Hidden Sketch By Famous Artist Found

Today we removed a painting by Mary De Neil Morgan off of a flimsy warped board and discovered a long lost sketch drawn on the reverse side by the famous artist. This sketch has not been seen since the artist did it about 80 years ago.

It looks like a preparatory drawing for a painting for one of her well known pueblos in a canyon (De Chelley?). The sketch was unharmed during our removal... but since we are mounting the drawing again... it will be hidden again from sight. Except from you... a privilege known to few.
This painting was "bombed" with 3 different colors of fire retardant in the last Santa Barbara fire! The soot and smoke were so bad that the owner of this family heirloom thought it was a "throw away." But a friend told him to have us give it a look: cleaning away the surface "stuff" and by removing the old varnish, we found the original painting to be in excellent condition!