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News Unveiling the matriarch

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​A upcoming exhibition of paintings from the National Academy of Design features an important work by painter Charles White that was recently conserved by PSP alumna Dr. Kristin de Ghetaldi. Excerpted from an article by Diana Thompson (the National Academy's Director of Collections and Curatorial Affairs) in NAD NOW—The Journal of the National Academy of Design:

This year, as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of White’s birth, the National Academy is proud to honor this Academician by unveiling his newly conserved Diploma Portrait entitled Matriarch. Not only is this work special for its quiet elegance and beautiful, deep, jewel-like tones, but it was a unique selection for the artist to give. Rather than a likeness of himself, Matriarch is a poignant, personal depiction of—and dedication to—his great aunt Hasty Baines. . . . Matriarch speaks to us not only through its content, but through the act of White selecting it for the collection. This is a perfect example of how the Academy’s artist-led submission process resulted in works entering the collection before they were more broadly recognized as having institutional importance. When White submitted this work in 1973, many museums were not championing the work of African Americans. The Studio Museum in Harlem was founded just five years earlier, in 1968, and the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition (BECC) the following year. The work itself predates the establishment of these important institutions, White having painted it in 1967, and in a way adds to the weight of White’s statement in submitting it. This freedom of choice is a defining aspect of the Academy’s collection and a huge part of what makes it unique. 

​​The painting before (left) and after (right) conservation treatment. Charles White, Matriarch, 1967, oil on canvas, 20 x 17 in., ANA diploma presentation, February 5, 1973, National Academy of Design, New York, image: Neighboring States

Paintings Conservator Kristin deGhetaldi was enlisted to examine and treat Matriarch. [She shared] a brief description of the work’s condition issues, her process to treat them, along with photos taken before and after: “Before conservation treatment began, examination of the painting confirmed that the surface suffered from the presence of a hazy, whitish substance typically referred to as efflorescence. This chemical phenomenon is generally caused by the migration of free fatty acids that are naturally present in the paint and is not dissimilar from the whitish haze that we occasionally encounter on chocolate candy. Fatty acids can be found in waxes, drying oils, and even egg yolk (which is the primary ingredient for the preparation of egg tempera paint); in this instance it is possible that White’s paints contained additions of wax and/or were simply “fatty” to begin with, meaning that he added a significant amount of drying oil to his pigments. While the underlying paint layers appeared to be in excellent condition, the efflorescence was obscuring White’s jewel-like palette consisting of purples, greens, and blues, and had created disfiguring patterns throughout the sitter’s hair and neck. Furthermore, if efflorescence that is rich in fatty acids is not eventually removed or reduced, it can become impossible to eliminate over time. After careful testing, it was found that this efflorescence could be safely and effectively removed using a mixture of organic solvents that did not affect the underlying paint and ground layers. As there is also a chance that additional fatty acids may migrate to the surface in the future, the painting was given a very thin layer of reversible, non-yellowing varnish in order to prevent the efflorescence from returning.”

To read more about the National Academy collection and the treatment of this painting, visit the NAD NOW web page here.

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An exhibition of paintings from the National Academy of Design features an important work by Charles White that was recently conserved by PSP alumna Dr. Kristin deGhetaldi.

​An exhibition of paintings from the National Academy of Design features an important work by Charles White that was recently conserved by PSP alumna Dr. Kristin deGhetaldi.

11/14/2018
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  • The Department of Art Conservation
  • 303 Old College
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-3489
  • art-conservation@udel.edu