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Here, There, and Everywhere

Here, There, and Everywhere

In March 2024, UD CAS Interim Dean and ARTC Chair Debra Hess Norris spoke about photograph preservation, The Beatles, and cultural memory as part of the Chrysler Museum exhibition of photographs by Sir Paul McCartney.
 
Poison Book Project Outreach: Connecting with Booksellers and Librarians

Poison Book Project Outreach: Connecting with Booksellers and Librarians

​The Poison Book Project continues to draw attention from bibliophiles​. At this year’s New York Antiquarian Book Fair, booksellers offered over half a dozen 19th-century bookbindings for sale as “poison books.”
 
Student Blog: Field Museum of Natural History

Student Blog: Field Museum of Natural History

In this blog post, WUDPAC class of 2024 Fellow Mackenzie Fairchild reflects on her third-year fellowship at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, from preparing polychrome wooden pagodas for loan to treating cellulose nitrate reptiles.
 
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Art conservation and family histories

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A student and teacher place a thin layer of clear Mylar over the unstretched painting that lays flat on a vacuum table.

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Winterthur/University of Delaware Fellow Emily Landry and Rosenberg Professor of painting conservation and PSP director Dr. Joyce Hill Stoner preparing to line the painting on a hot table using vacuum.​ (Image: S. Callanta)

​Two young boys clamber up a May Pole, racing to reach what appears to be a pipe tied in among the ribbons on top in an oil painting dated 1857 and signed “F.E. Montanus.” The little-known artist was born in Germany and moved to Chur, Switzerland where he ran a photography studio. The painting has no title, and WUDPA​C Fellow and paintings major Emily Landry, who is treating it this year, refers to it simply as “The Boys,” or “Boys Climbing.”

The painting, purchased in Chur, Switzerland sometime after World War II by a woman who sent it home to Venezuela, has been a valued possession of the same family ever since. In 2023, after a family member discovered water damage from a ceiling leak and an active pest infestation, the painting was sent to the United States for conservation treatment.

​Once the painting arrived at Winterthur, it was immediately placed in a carbon dioxide (CO²) chamber for 21 days to kill any active pests. When Emily was then able to examine it, she found that the painting’s condition was poor overall, and that much of the damage was, indeed, due to pests. Wood-eating insects had tunneled through the stretcher wood, and the stretcher bars had lost mass overall. The canvas was brittle, slack, and suffered from multiple losses and tears, and she found evidence of multiple water events. The paint was flaking, lifting, and covered with a variety of mechanical craquelure. The painting had multiple, unevenly applied coatings which may have been a result of previous restoration efforts.​

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The student uses a flashlight to view the surface of the suctioned painting and Mylar package to check for even pressure.

Emily carefully checks the surface for any debris that could make an indentation in the paint surface while heated under vacuum. (Image: S. Callanta)​

Emily’s foremost treatment goal is to stabilize and protect the painting. Given the extent of the damage, this will necessitate lining the painting to better support the canvas and replacing the existing stretcher with another that is custom-made.

Her first step, however, was to consolidate the flaking paint. Afterwards, she was able to clean the painting. Using an aqueous solution released the odor of nicotine, leading her to believe that a portion of the discoloration was caused by cigarette smoke. To treat the tears and losses in the canvas, Emily used multiple techniques including Heiber thread-by-thread method in addition to fills with Japanese tissue. She will replace layers of darkened coatings on the painting with a reversible varnish and fill and inpaint the losses. When Emily has completed her treatment, the painting will reside with a descendant of the original owner in Delaware.

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Image of the painting showing two boys climbing a tree. Boxes are digitally placed on the image to show the location of water damage to the painting.

Overall images of the recto of the painting with outlines highlighting areas of water damage. (Image: E. Landry.)​

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Image of the back of the painting. Boxes are digitally placed on the image to show the location of water damage to the painting.

Overall images of the verso of the painting with outlines highlighting areas of water damage. (Image: E. Landry.)​​

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Close up image of a tear in the painting, viewed from the back of the canvas. Individual threads can be seen, placed as bridges across the tear to stabilize the fabric.

​Thread-by-thread tear repair of an area with lost canvas involves weaving in replacement threads under microscopic magnification. Because the canvas has 3:1 twill weave, small paper markers were used to help keep track of the complicated pattern.​ (Image: E. Landry.)​​​

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​​Two young boys clamber up a May Pole in a painting under treatment by WUDPA​C Fellow and paintings major Emily Landry, whose goal is to stabilize and protect the flaking paint and water-damaged canvas.​
 
 
5/10/2024
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