Thursday, September 8, 2011

This LeConte Stewart Oil Painting Required a Double Cleaning

When I cleaned this landscape by LeConte Stewart years ago, I didn’t really know the artist’s work. I’ve worked on a few more paintings by this artist over the years usually through William Karges Fine Art or George Stern Fine Arts. But then, this week, I was meeting with the LDS Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City, UT and they had up a wonderful exhibition of LOTS of Stewart’s paintings.

Double cleaning of an oil painting
Sometimes different layers of dirt come off with different solvents and require a double... or even a triple cleaning.

Over the years I have used this photo to show of the stages of cleaning a rural Utah landscape by LeConte Stewartas an example of how, sometimes, a painting can require several cleaning stages to get it completely clean duringart conservation treatments. This is really quite a common situation where the solvent that takes off the top layer of crud, doesn’t touch the underlying discolored varnish layer… and sometimes it can be more than two layers! When doing the cleaning tests in order to estimate a budget, this multiple cleaning is usually met with conflicted feelings by the owner: its thrilling to see how big a difference there will be but… the double or triple cleaning process is more expensive. Its part of the price to get the job done right. I can’t tell you how often we have people bring paintings in the art conservation lab that have JUST BEEN CLEANED by someone else… they failed to either know what to do or they didn’t see the additional layer of discoloration left behind after the first cleaning… and the painting still need to be cleaned further.

Actually, two Salt Lake Museums are exhibiting the works of this Utah painter, which marks the first ever joint collaboration between the LDS Church History Museum and the University of Utah Museum of Fine Arts. I saw the exhibition at the LDS Museum of Church History. See video and KSL article at

I was really wowed. His artwork, large and small, was of a very nice quality. He was very poetic in interpreting boring rural Utah landscapes into beautiful colors, contrasts, composition and emotions that I would have never thought possible… and was drawn to! His perspectives, draftsmanship and confident execution are consistent throughout the exhibition. It was a real pleasure and inspiration.

If you have the chance to get by the museum for the show, set the time aside. I wish the museum would have published a catalog. But they did produce a DVD that is available in the gift shop.

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