WUDPAC Class of 2005 alumna Anya Shutov is part of the team working to conserve this important work by Paul Cézanne at The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia.
Excerpted from Stephan Salisbury's article "A tale of two Philadelphia bathers, now cleaned up and ready to strut their stuff" in the November 26, 2019 issue of The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Looking at Paul Cézanne’s The Large Bathers, one of the jewels of the Barnes Foundation’s
69 works by the French master, visitors to the gallery on the Benjamin
Franklin Parkway are most likely unaware of the painting’s dramatic
life. Cézanne was working on it when he died in 1906. He’d expanded the
canvas at least twice, fiddled with the size of the figures, fiddled
with the contours of a tree, fiddled with a hand, slapped on paint,
wiped it off, redrew at least one figure, left heads worthy of a cubist
sketch, and generally fussed over it for 11 years.
Up the Parkway, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, visitors have also been likely unaware of drama surrounding Pierre-August Renoir’s The Great Bathers,
an 1887 work that has undergone anxiety-producing preservation
treatments (including a death-defying complete removal of paint from
canvas in a restoration effort prior to the art museum’s stewardship). But much light has recently been cast on the complex histories of these two masterworks, thanks to conservation grants bestowed by the Bank of America. . . . The Barnes’ Bathers is in the final stages of its yearlong
conservation saga and will soon return to pride of place on the east
wall of the main gallery, above Renoir’s The Artist’s Family (1896). Visitors will be able to see it there starting Dec. 18.
“So the first part of the year was a lot of technical analysis,” said
Barbara Buckley, the Barnes conservator of paintings and director of
conservation. “That was the goal of the project — to do technical
analysis so that we come to a better understanding of the materials
Cézanne used in making the painting. The analysis also included
different imaging techniques. … And I have also traveled to the National
Gallery in London to look at their painting [the third of Cézanne’s Bathers] and talk to their conservators.” As she spoke, Buckley and conservator Anya Shutov stood before Large Bathers, which
was propped on an easel at one end of the lab. The painting shimmered
with a color far richer than evident when it’s displayed high on the
wall of the Barnes gallery. . . . “We did infrared reflectography, which shows us the under drawing — the
first sketch the artist makes on canvas before he starts painting,”
said Shutov. “You can see some of the, probably, crayon lines that were
put in to outline the figures, the basket, and other elements of the
painting, the drapery.”
To learn more about the painting, the conservation treatment, and the artist's process, read the full article here.