Archive for the 'Conservation' Category

Painting Without the Point: Pissarro’s “Apple Harvest” Unvarnished

A long-time favorite in the DMA’s European galleries, Camille Pissarro’s Apple Harvest of 1888 has returned to view this month after a visit to the Painting Conservation Studio.

Camille Pissarro’s Apple Harvest (1888), on Mark Leonard’s easel, in the DMA’s Painting Conservation Studio

Camille Pissarro’s Apple Harvest (1888) on Mark Leonard’s easel in the DMA’s Painting Conservation Studio

Removal of the old varnish layer began at the right side of the picture, as is seen in this image taken during the cleaning process.  Soft cotton swabs and a mild organic solvent mixture were used to remove the discolored resin.

Removal of the old varnish layer began at the right side of the picture, as is seen in this image taken during the cleaning process. Soft cotton swabs and a mild organic solvent mixture were used to remove the discolored resin.

The painting, which has been at the Museum since 1955, is in very good condition, but it was brought to Chief Conservator Mark Leonard to determine whether it was in need of cleaning. He opened a small “cleaning window” along the right side of the canvas, removing the layer of protective varnish. The bright pigments revealed by this small test confirmed that the varnish had become dark and yellowed over the past half-century, masking the true colors of the painting. It needed to be removed. The painting was carefully cleaned and its original vibrant tonality has been rediscovered.

 

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Pissarro actually made three different paintings of this subject: a group of peasants gathering apples in the shade of an apple tree. The first version dates back to 1881, when Pissarro was one of the leaders of the impressionist group, and is painted in a classic impressionist style, with open brushwork describing the dappled sunlight that falls on the figures.

Camille Pissarro, Apple Picking, 1881, Oil on canvas, 25 5/8 x 21 ¼ in. (65 x 54 cm), Private Collection

Camille Pissarro, Apple Picking, 1881, oil on canvas, 25 5/8 x 21 ¼ in. (65 x 54 cm), Private Collection

The same year, Pissarro started another, larger version of the subject, but did not complete it until 1886, when he showed it at the eighth and final impressionist exhibition.

 Camille Pissarro, Apple Picking, 1881-1886, oil on canvas, 49 5/8 x 50 in. (126 x 127 cm), Ohara Museum of Art, Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan

Camille Pissarro, Apple Picking, 1881-1886, oil on canvas, 49 5/8 x 50 in. (126 x 127 cm), Ohara Museum of Art, Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan

At that exhibition, Pissarro championed the participation of the young pointillist painters, Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, and Seurat showed his “manifesto painting,” A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte1884.

Georges Seurat, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte—1884, 1884-86, oil on canvas, 81 ¾ x 121 ¼ in. (207.5 x 308.1 cm), Art Institute of Chicago, Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection

Georges Seurat, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte—1884, 1884-86, oil on canvas, 81 ¾ x 121 ¼ in. (207.5 x 308.1 cm), Art Institute of Chicago, Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection

Pissarro had recently adopted Seurat’s neo-impressionist method as the approach to painting that was “in harmony with our epoch” and an evolution from the older, “romantic” impressionism of artists like Monet. When he began work the next year on the DMA’s Apple Harvest, Pissarro was returning to a familiar subject, but armed with the new, “scientific” principles he had learned from Seurat.
Pissarro prepared the painting with a number of drawings, oil studies, and a full compositional watercolor, which he squared for transfer.

Camille Pissarro, Compositional study for Apple Harvest, c. 1888, watercolor on paper, 6 5/8 x 8 ½ in. (16.7 x 21.5 cm), Whereabouts unknown

Camille Pissarro, Compositional study for Apple Harvest, c. 1888, watercolor on paper, 6 5/8 x 8 ½ in. (16.7 x 21.5 cm), whereabouts unknown

In one drawing for the apple tree, Pissarro carefully noted the local colors he observed in the grass while sketching in the apple orchard: “yellowish red-orange,” “green,” “violet,” and “pink.”

Camille Pissarro, Study for Apple Harvest, c. 1888, graphite and colored pencil on beige paper, 7 x 9 in. (17.8 x 22.7 cm), The Eunice and Hal David Collection

Camille Pissarro, Study for Apple Harvest, c. 1888, graphite and colored pencil on beige paper, 7 x 9 in. (17.8 x 22.7 cm), The Eunice and Hal David Collection

In the final painting, these colors were evoked optically through a flurry of carefully selected and painstakingly applied flecks and dots of pure, unmixed color.

Camille Pissarro, Apple Harvest (Cuillette des pommes), 1888 (detail)

Camille Pissarro, Apple Harvest, 1888 (detail)

The pointillist method was a source of ongoing internal debate for Pissarro during these years. Despite his methodical preparatory studies, Pissarro placed a very high value on freedom and improvisation in painting. In September 1888, around the time he was completing work on Apple Harvest, he wrote to his son Lucien, a fellow neo-impressionist: “I am thinking a lot here about a way of producing without the point,” he reported. “How to attain the qualities of purity, of the simplicity of the point, and the thickness, the suppleness, the liberty, the spontaneity, the freshness of sensation of our impressionist art? That’s the question; it is much on my mind, for the point is thin, without consistency, diaphanous, more monotonous than simple.”

In Apple Harvest, Pissarro went to great lengths to avoid the monotony of pointillism, and his dots are surprisingly active and diverse, fracturing and curling to define form as well as color.

Camille Pissarro, Apple Harvest (Cuillette des pommes), 1888 (detail)

Camille Pissarro, Apple Harvest, 1888 (detail)

Robert Herbert, one of the great 20th-century historians of impressionism, described Pissarro’s complex approach to describing the deep shadow under the apple tree at the center foreground of the painting with a myriad of colored points: “The shadow has brilliant red, intense blue, intense green as well as pink, lavender, orange, some yellow, and subdued blues and greens. The pigments were not allowed to mix much together, and preserve their individuality which, because of the high intensity, results in an abrasive vibration in our eye that cannot be resolved into one tone. In order to make the contrast still sharper, Pissarro strengthens the blue around the edges of the shadow, a reaction provoked by the proximity of the strong sunlit field.”

 Camille Pissarro, Apple Harvest (Cuillette des pommes), 1888 (detail)

Camille Pissarro, Apple Harvest, 1888 (detail)

By February of the next year, Pissarro informed his son that he was still “searching for a way to replace the points. Up until this moment, I haven’t found what I desire; the execution doesn’t seem to me to be quick enough and doesn’t respond simultaneously enough to sensation.” Pissarro sought nothing less than translating the immediacy of his optical sensations into the solid fact of paint on a canvas. Throughout the late 1880s, he was testing the capacity of the neo-impressionists’ methods to sustain this personal artistic goal.

Camille Pissarro taking his rolling easel outdoors to paint near his house in Éragny, France, c. 1895

Camille Pissarro taking his rolling easel outdoors to paint near his house in Éragny, France, c. 1895

The first critics who saw Apple Harvest in 1889 and 1890, when it was shown at important exhibitions in Brussels and Paris, were profoundly impressed with how Pissarro managed to convey the experience of sunlight using the pointillist approach. One early critic wrote, “Truly, the canvases of M. Pissarro are today painted with the sun.” Later writers have agreed, pointing out how Pissarro “directed the light so that it appears to radiate from the depths of the scene, to activate with color everything along its path and then to issue forth in to the viewer’s space.”

How, then, does the painting’s recent cleaning alter our understanding of Apple Harvest? For many decades, the painting has appeared more yellow than Pissarro intended because of the darkened layer of varnish on its surface. This change has no doubt influenced viewers of the painting who noted the “warm” palette of the canvas, which “positively throbs with the heat of a late summer’s afternoon.” The intensely sunlit effect of the painting was, it seems, given an additional golden glow by the amber hue of the darkened varnish. But, the dazzling luminosity of Apple Harvest—its “powerful fiat lux,” in the words of one early critic—was no accident of time. It was apparent to viewers as soon as the painting left Pissarro’s easel, and now, 125 years later, the painting’s brilliant colors and lighting effects have been restored to their original, white-hot intensity.

Camille Pissarro, Apple Harvest (Cuillette des pommes), 1888, oil on canvas, 24 x 29 1/8 in. (61 x 74 cm), Dallas Museum of Art, Munger Fund

Camille Pissarro, Apple Harvest, 1888, oil on canvas, 24 x 29 1/8 in. (61 x 74 cm), Dallas Museum of Art, Munger Fund

Celebrate Camille Pissarro’s birthday on July 10 with a visit to the newly conserved work on Level 2.

Heather MacDonald is The Lillian and James H. Clark Associate Curator of European Art at the DMA.

Keeping It Cool

The weather is heating up outside but it’s a cool, comfy, and constant 70 degrees (or thereabouts) at the DMA, where our temperature and humidity is monitored 24/7. More than 220 sensors are hidden throughout the Museum, and they help us record and regulate our internal environment.

With our encyclopedic collection and a vast array of media, 70 degrees with 50% humidity is the museum gold standard to best protect and preserve the precious objects entrusted to our care. If conditions are too dry, our wooden sculptures could crack; too humid, and other objects could start to mildew. What we try to avoid most are dramatic fluctuations in temperature and humidity, which could cause materials to expand and contract.

Artworks that are particularly vulnerable to climatic conditions are sometimes monitored in their cases. Wandering through our galleries, you may spot these tiny devices (just 1 x 2 inches) lurking in the corners. These hygrothermographs are temperature and humidity sensors that give us real-time environmental readings.

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Lacquer in particular, such as these works from our Asian collection, is susceptible to fluctuations, which can cause the material to lift and crack. For objects needing lower humidity, we sometimes hide the desiccant silica gel inside the casework (under decks and mounts) to create special microclimates.

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So as temperatures and humidity soar in the Dallas summer, come cool off in the Museum, where general admission (and air conditioning) is always free.

Reagan Duplisea is the Associate Registrar of Exhibitions at the DMA. 

Conservation Time Travel

Uncrated recently caught up with the DMA’s  associate conservator, Fran Baas, who joined the Museum in November. This summer, you can find her working on the 1908 Viennese Wittgenstein silver cabinet, pictured below.

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Describe your job in fifty words or less.
My title is Associate Conservator, and I oversee the activities involved in the long-term preservation of the DMA’s permanent collection of objects and textiles. This comprehensive approach includes treatment, research, and analysis, and the preventive care of the collection.

What might an average day entail?
Each day is very different and has me running around all over the Museum. I might be assessing objects as potential loan candidates, responding to e-mails, writing reports, and doing actual benchwork. 

For example, recently, over the course of two days, I treated three plaster “pears,” dehydrated a SCOBY (a colony of bacteria/yeast that is part of a contemporary piece), conditioned silica gel, cleaned a few inches of an intricate early 20th-century Viennese silver piece, discussed with curators and collections staff the “inherent vice” of an extremely fragile piece, helped identify materials in an African headdress, and assisted in the treatment of some large oversized paintings. My job keeps me hopping across decades, centuries, and millennia . . . not to mention across the world geographically!

How would you describe the best part of your job and its biggest challenges?
 I absolutely love my job. It’s a huge responsibility, but a privilege that I do not take lightly. The biggest challenge is never having enough time!

Growing up, what type of career did you envision yourself in? Did you think you’d work in an art museum?
For a long time, I struggled with where I fit. I am very “left-brained, right-brained,” as they say. Not only do I love working with my hands and looking at art, but I love science and the process of discovery. It took me awhile to find a profession that combines art and science. Conservation is a field where I get to do my favorite things in an effort to preserve art and artifacts for future generations to appreciate. I have the best job in the world.

Do you have a favorite work in the DMA’s collection yet?
As cliché as this sounds, I fall in love with whatever piece I am currently working on. Getting to work with a piece up close, in conjunction with the material analysis and background historical research, allows me to really “get to know” a piece . . . and as a result fall in love.

What are you looking forward to in your future here at the DMA?
I look forward to getting to know each and every object and textile in the DMA’s encyclopedic collection!

Olympics in the Galleries

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Ice Skater (verso), 1929–30, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Ice Skater (verso), 1929–30, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

No, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s ice skater is not executing a complicated triple lutz, soon to be witnessed by billions around the world during the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He is permanently suspended in his upside-down state, having been painted on the verso of a canvas 17 years after the main painting on the other side, Four Wooden Sculptures, which depicts small primitive sculptures. Both sides of this expressionist artist’s painting can currently be seen (the skater requiring a bit of head tilting) in the DMA’s Behind the Scenes exhibition in the Conservation Gallery.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Four Wooden Sculptures (recto), 1912, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Four Wooden Sculptures (recto), 1912, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

Kirchner’s interest in the movement and agility of the human body began early in his career with depictions of Berlin and Dresden cabarets and circuses. He later found inspiration in the bicyclists who practiced racing at Berlin’s Olympia stadium. The DMA’s skater was painted after the artist moved to the Swiss Alpine mountain town of Frauenkirch, near Davos, where he would spend the last 20 years of his life. The area remains a mecca for cold-weather athletics–Davos is now home to both the Kirchner Museum and the Winter Sports Museum.

In 1930, in his essay “On Life and Work,” Kirchner reflected: “Observation of movement has been for me a particularly fruitful source of creative inspiration. From that observation comes the increased awareness of life which is the source of all artistic works.” For Kirchner, most of his sports experience was only that–observation and then the subsequent depictions thereof. The skater and other works such as Ski-Jumpers (1927) and Ice-Hockey Players (1934) were executed after his physical and mental breakdown. Archery seems to be the one sport that the artist attempted himself. In 1933, he wrote to a friend, “My wife is quite a good shot, too. It is an educational sport which makes people take up beautiful attitudes.”

And here’s a view of Kirchner’s Ice Skater that doesn’t require turning the computer upside down.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Ice Skater (verso), 1929–30, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Ice Skater (verso), 1929–30

Read more about the appearance of athletic activity in Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s work here.

Reagan Duplisea is the associate registrar, exhibitions at the DMA

Hide and Go Seek: A Behind-the-Scenes Field Trip to Permanent Collection Storage

A few months ago, the seven other McDermott Interns and I toured art storage with Anne Lenhart, associate registrar for the permanent collection. Each year, McDermott Interns explore the storage facilities and get a sneak peek inside the DMA’s collection. We spotted more than a few hidden gems during the tour, which you can find, too, through our DMA Friends program. DMA Friends points can be redeemed for an Into the Deep reward that explores art storage. See snapshots of the secrets of storage below!

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First stop, Main Storage: Adolph Gottlieb’s Orb, 1964, is rolled out for closer inspection. If you would like to see it for yourself, the painting is on view through March in the Museum’s Hoffman Galleries.
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Second stop, Conservation Office: Mark Leonard, chief conservator, works on a painting’s mounting in his old office. With the opening of the Paintings Conservation Studio in November, his work process is now on public display.
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Third stop, Photography: Here works, such as water pitchers, are photographed for publication.
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Fourth stop, Cold Storage: Marc Quinn’s blood heads have never been stored here. If they ever do come to the Museum, we’ll have the proper storage for them!
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Fifth stop: Textile Storage: Textiles are tightly packed on rungs.
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Sixth stop, Large Objects: While some artists do not designate what particular hardware and software to use for digital artworks, some do. We have a nice collection of “ancient” relics.
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Seventh stop, Prop Storage
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Eighth stop: Meso-American and Small Objects Storage: Anne gives Amy Kaczmarek a closer look.
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Temple Shipley is the McDermott Curatorial Intern for Contemporary Art at the DMA.

A Year of Launches, Anniversaries, and Free at the DMA

The year 2013 has been an exciting one at the DMA. We’ve welcomed more than 540,000 visitors, launched new programs, and hosted 11 exhibitions. Below are a few of the Uncrated team’s favorite highlights from the past year.

      • Going free!
        We returned to free general admission on January 21 and have loved every minute of opening our doors for free to the North Texas community.
      • Getting more than 41,000 new friends
        In January we launched DMA Friends, the first free museum membership program, and our new friends have been earning points on their visits and redeeming them for unique rewards for almost 12 months!
      • DMA sleepover
        Speaking of unique rewards, we hosted our first DMA Overnight in November. Ten DMA Friends redeemed 100,000 points to spend the night at the Museum with a guest while exploring the galleries after hours, participating in new DMA games and sleeping under the watchful eyes of Tlaloc.
        Overnight Guests
      • C3 got a facelift
        Come by and see new works of art and activities for all ages in the front gallery of the Center for Creative Connections on Level 1.
      • A sky of denim
        The DMA co-organized exhibition Jim Hodges: Give More Than You Take (on view through January 12!) is full of beautiful and interesting works of art, but we had the privilege of being the first venue to ever show his denim work Untitled (one day it all comes true). It was amazing getting to witness Jim Hodges viewing his completed work on display for the first time.
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      • Happy Anniversary!
        This was the year of anniversaries here at the DMA, including the 110th birthday of the DMA, the 80th anniversary of the Dallas Free Public Art Gallery becoming the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, the 50th anniversary of the merger of the DMFA and DMCA, the 30th anniversary of the DMA Sculpture Garden opening, the 20th anniversary of the Hamon Building opening (which includes Level 4 and the Atrium), Arturo’s 10th birthday, and the 5th anniversary of C3.
      • From Greece to Dallas
        We had a year of amazing exhibitions, from a celebration of President Kennedy in Hotel Texas: An Art Exhibition for the President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy to the colorful world of Chagall’s sculptures, drawings and costumes in Chagall:Beyond Color, from the famous Discus Thrower from the British Museum in The Body Beautiful in Ancient Greece to welcoming the local art community in DallasSITES: Available Space.
      • Art/Arte
        This fall we launched our first-ever bilingual (Spanish and English) guide for visitors, written by members of the Dallas community through a partnership program with AVANCE-Dallas and Make Art With Purpose. Pick one up at the Visitor Services Desk on your next visit.
      • Texas hops and barley
        This summer we had a Texas beer social for Museum staff and sampled brews that come from the Lone Star State. Uncrated team member Melissa Nelson Gonzales out- sipped the competition and won the beer tasting contest!
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      • Eyes of the  Ancestors
        In June we celebrated the publication of our catalogue Eyes of the Ancestors: The Arts of Island Southeast Asia at the Dallas Museum of Art and welcomed special guest Dhalang Purbo Asmoro, who hosted a public gamelan and wayang performance with musicians from Java, Bali and New York. This month, the book was named the winner of the 2013 International Tribal Art Book Prize.
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      • Creative rest stop
        We launched a new program this year, the Pop-Up Art Spot, taking C3 into the galleries and inviting visitors to enjoy a creative break while exploring the Museum. Over 12,000 visitors of all ages have participated in drawing, writing and other creative activities!
      • New digs
        In 2013 a portion of the south end of the building was under renovation for the new DMA Paintings Conservation Studio (watch the transition here). Visitors can see into the DMA’s Conservation Studio and explore the conservation process in the adjacent gallery for free during Museum hours. A recent conservation project, Daniel Buren’s Sanction of the Museum, hangs in the Concourse and leads the way to the studio.
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      • A Texas-size howdy!
        Our Visitor Services Team, which greets every guest of the DMA when they walk through our doors or visit the galleries, also got a makeover. You may have noticed their friendly smiles and new outfits during your visits this year.
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Thank you for helping us make 2013 a great year. We wish you a very happy new year!

Kimberly Daniell is the manager of communications and public affairs at the DMA.

The Man Behind the Mounts

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Over the past 23 years, visitors to the DMA have witnessed the handiwork of preparator and resident mountmaker Russell Sublette without actually seeing it: the lid of an African box seems to lift as if pulled by an unseen hand, the Tiffany windows emanate a ghostly glow from within the wall into which they are built, odd-shaped objects stand straight and tall in their cases. He has made a Yoruba Egungun costume twirl and dance in the galleries, and created a mannequin support for an equestrian Madonna to ride.

Window with Starfish ("Spring") and Window with Sea Anemone ("Summer"), c. 1885-1895, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company, glass, lead, iron, and wooden frame (original), Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

Window with Starfish (“Spring”) and Window with Sea Anemone (“Summer”), c. 1885-95, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company, glass, lead, iron, and wooden frame (original), Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

“The point of the mount is to let the object speak without the mount being the center of attention,” Sublette says. “The best compliment you can give a mountmaker is ‘What a great object.’”

A 35-year veteran of the Museum, Sublette began his journey to become the DMA’s expert mountmaker in high school metal shop class. He still has a dust pan he made in 1972. After working for several years as a general art handler at the DMA, he focused his attention on making mounts with the Gold of Three Continents exhibition in 1990. A training course at Benchmark, a national company that supplies mounts and supports for museums across the country, provided him with a solid foundation and advice that he still carries with him to this day.

Sublette’s most recent handiwork can be seen (if you look closely enough) in the Behind the Scenes installation in the DMA’s new Paintings Conservation Gallery. Unframed canvases seem to float in their cases and provide visitors the opportunity to learn about painting support systems. The mount for William Henry Huddle’s Marble Falls was his favorite because it was the most challenging. Much time and effort were needed to thread the gravity clip and a triangular brace made to provide a strong structural gusset so the painting does not wobble.

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The Huddle is indicative of Sublette’s process and approach to mountmaking: First he has to figure out the “key to the object”–how to mount the artwork securely in four points or less. Then he asks himself, “How do I make this mount as discrete as possible, invisible if I can?” Sublette achieves this unobtrusive subtlety by becoming an “amateur engineer” and figuring out how thin a piece of metal can be and still hold the weight of the piece securely. Thin pieces of metal can hold a lot of weight of they are bent, twisted and machined to strengthen and make them more rigid. Sublette says that mountmakers are “artists in service of art.” This particular artist’s preferred medium is brass: it’s cheaper than steel, very malleable, needs only a small oxygen tank, and produces no soot.

Sublette says he enjoys the mountmaking aspect of his job because it takes 100% engagement and allows for close contact with the art. He admits to revisiting an object 100-150 times before its mount is complete, measuring and re-measuring, memorizing each line and contour. “It’s important to take the mount to the piece and not the piece to the mount. You shouldn’t have to force a piece into an acrobatic dance to fit the mount. I’m anal as hell. But now I’m using it for the forces of good.”

Sublette also made the shell surround mounts for the pedestals for the double-sided works in the conservation gallery, including Ernst Kirchner’s Four Wooden Sculptures (recto)/ Ice Skater (verso) and Emile Bernard’s Breton Women Attending a Pardon (recto)/Unfinished Sketch (verso). A far cry from the dust pans of yore.

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Reagan Duplisea is associate registrar of exhibitions at the DMA.

Creating the DMA Conservation Studio

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In the summer of 2012, the Dallas Museum of Art began making plans to renovate the former Seventeen Seventeen Restaurant space and transform it into a new Paintings Conservation Studio as part of the Museum’s initiative to establish a more comprehensive in-house conservation program. Construction began in the fall of 2012, and the studio is now complete, as is the adjacent Conservation Gallery. This time-lapse film captures the building process, as seen from the vantage point of what is now a public gallery space.

The Paintings Conservation Studio features state-of-the-art technology—including a digital X-ray system—and will serve as a center for the study and treatment of works of art, as well as research into cutting-edge conservation methodologies. Brightened with natural light from new skylights and enclosed by glass walls, the studio’s design will allow visitors to observe daily activity, providing audiences with a singular behind-the-scenes experience. Activities in the studio also will be visible from both the Conservation Gallery and the adjacent outdoor Rose Family Sculpture Terrace.

The first exhibition in the gallery, Behind the Scenes, highlights the artists’ original materials and techniques, as well as the conservation histories of the works on display, exploring the various treatments they have undergone. This adjoining gallery will regularly rotate works, providing a space to explore the conservation process in greater detail through visual representations.

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Mark Leonard is the chief conservator at the DMA.

DMA Park Rangers

It’s hard to believe one whole year has passed since our neighbor Klyde Warren Park  opened its gates. In honor of the first anniversary, we created a Park Rangers guide to the DMA.

The role of a ranger is to care for and protect the flora and fauna of the park and to educate visitors about them. As a former park ranger, I can personally attest that the jobs that we do here at the DMA aren’t entirely different! We just focus on works of art instead of nature. And, there is actually quite a bit of nature to be investigated within the Museum’s walls.

Come to the DMA and explore nature on the Park Rangers self-guided tour. Print it at home before your visit or ask a friendly gallery attendant—the DMA’s own version of a park ranger—for one when you arrive.

George Inness, Summer Foliage, 1883, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, bequest of Joel T. Howard

George Inness, Summer Foliage, 1883, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, bequest of Joel T. Howard

One tour stop is George Inness’s Summer Foliage, which shows the artist’s unique ability to bring to life a traditional landscape scene. After your Museum visit, saunter over to Klyde Warren Park to experience nature firsthand, right in the middle of the Dallas Arts District!Practice capturing your own landscape with a camera or a phone. Don’t forget to tag your photo #DMAParkRanger.

Andrea Vargas Severin is the interpretation specialist at the DMA.

Summer Conservation at the DMA: Treatment of Sanction of the Museum by Daniel Buren

If you’ve visited the DMA lately, you may have been wondering what is going on behind the closed doors of the Chilton Galleries, the same galleries that held the recent Chagall: Beyond Color exhibition. The galleries have been transformed into a temporary conservation workspace, where we have been busily working on a massive installation artwork by Daniel Buren.

Daniel Buren in 1995. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Daniel Buren in 1995 (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Daniel Buren (b. 1938) has been creating dynamic public installations since the early 1970s. His conceptual artwork challenged the traditional formats at the time and frequently combined modern pieces with historical architecture. Now Buren’s large striped artworks are recognized instantly across Europe, earning him revered status in his native France.

Sanction of the Museum being unrolled for the first time at the DMA.

Sanction of the Museum being unrolled for the first time at the DMA

The DMA recently acquired Buren’s 1973 Sanction of the Museum, which consists of six enormous panels of cotton fabric with alternating white and colored vertical stripes. Each panel bears two stripes of white acrylic paint applied to both the front and back of the fabric at the far left and right edges. The panels will hang from the ceiling near the Ross Avenue Entrance (at the south end of the Museum’s main Concourse) like a series of banners that can sway slightly in the air. They will lead the way upstairs to the new Conservation Studio, where Museum visitors will soon have a window into the often-unseen world of art conservation.

Conservation Interns Diana Hartman and Jessica Ford steaming one of the large canvas panels

Conservation interns Diana Hartman and Jessica Ford steaming one of the large canvas panels

As conservation interns, our job was to stabilize and restore visual integrity to the canvas panels. They had been rolled up in storage since the artwork’s last installation in 1989, prior to their acquisition by the DMA last year. This is good in that the artwork hasn’t seen a lot of wear or fading from UV, but because it was rolled improperly a number of minor damages were incurred. (If you’re curious about how to properly care for your paintings, here is a good place to start!) The most pressing issues we encountered were the extreme creases and wrinkles that marred the artwork’s stoic appearance. We also found numerous small stains and tears.

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Before performing any treatment on the artwork itself, we made mock-ups and conducted tests to decide on the best option. In conservation practice, a “less is more” approach is always best, using minimal interference and always using reversible materials. In this particular case, we successfully steamed away most of the wrinkles in the fabric and reduced the most severe creases under custom weights. Small tears were mended with thread-by-thread reweaving and custom-made patches. Soft vinyl erasers and cellulose pulp poultices were used to reduce scuffs and dirt.

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After an intense eight weeks of preparation, installation is now underway! We are thrilled to have been a part of the team that helped bring this important contemporary artwork to Dallas. This conservation treatment is just the start of many more exciting projects that will be taking place on public view in the new Conservation Studio when it opens this fall. Be sure to check out Sanction of the Museum the next time you visit the DMA!

Diana Hartman and Jessica Ford are art conservation interns working with Chief Conservator Mark Leonard at the DMA this summer. Diana is a conservation technician at Winterthur Museum, and Jessica is a graduate fellow in paintings conservation at Winterthur/University of Delaware.


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