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I have a friend who owns a Maxfield Parrish painting (of a farmer accompanying his oxen at sundown on a wintery day. She believes it was on the cover of Collier’s Magazine Jan. 1906; her in-laws bought it at Vose Gallery, Boston in the 1960s). It isn't in great shape - has smoke damage (they hung it over a fireplace) and a few small areas missing paint. She is looking to get it conserved.
I recommended she check out the American Institute of Conservation (AIC) website to find a conservator. I've had good luck with AIC in the past. However I'm wondering, since it's a work by a well known painter, if a greater level of scrutiny is warranted.
When a painting by a "famous" artist needs attention, is there any interest in or means by which it could/should be brought to the attention of historians or conservators; or are there just too many paintings by well known painters in private collections to warrant such attention? Just curious.
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So definitely a starting point is to check for local conservators who may be nearby.....and this can be done through AIC's "Find a Conservator" database. HOWEVER AIC is now in the midst of deciding how to structure this database; for example, I would not be able to recommend some of the paintings conservators listed either b/c a) I do not know them b) they did not receive graduate training or c) both. It is a hard road to navigate for sure....for instance some conservators will post their resumes and they will have unquestionable credentials....while others are harder to judge (taking a course here and there abroad does not necessarily make for a trained conservator that abides by AIC's Code of Ethics...I can attest to this b/c I myself have taken several courses abroad). So my suggestion is for your friend to come up with a list after doing a bit of research and then to encourage her to check in with anyone of the graduate programs as to whether they have any additional info to share.
There is no system in place to alert other conservators and
art historians when an “important” painting requires conservation. A competent,
trained conservator will reach out to other conservators and art historians who
have worked on or studied similar works by the same artist to help with treatment
protocol and known issues with the work (for instance Parrish often
incorporated many resinous interlayers between his oil layers, this may make
his painting very sensitive to solvents). Again, trained, conscientious
conservators should decide to let the client know of another conservator with
more experience working on paintings by that artist if there are potential
problems (for instance, Kristin and I would refuse to treat an oil painting by
Turner as they are just too complicated and there are conservators with a
history of treating his paintings.
This is yet another reason why it is so important to make
sure that the conservator you chose is well trained, has up-to-date knowledge
of treatment options, and who corresponds with other experts in the field.
Wow, that was fast! Thanks for your help. I'll let my friend know your thoughts (and will let you know if anything interesting comes from conserving the piece).