Category Archives: Art Properties

Conservation Partnership: Art Properties and IFA Conservation Center

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(The statuette before, during, and after conservation)

In Fall 2013, Art Properties began a program with the NYU Institute of Fine Arts Conservation Center to loan objects from Columbia’s art collection to the IFA CC so that students could benefit from object-centered learning. The IFA CC offers graduate degrees to students interested in the technical study and preservation of art and cultural heritage objects, such as paintings, sculpture in all media, and ceramics. Each semester one or more professors from the IFA CC have coordinated with the Curator of Art Properties to select works related to courses taught that semester. Examples to date have included the study and preservation of polychrome wood sculpture, as well as marble and bronze figurines.

This cooperative program has been mutually beneficial for both the IFA CC and Columbia. Students have the opportunity to work hands-on cleaning, stabilizing, and analyzing these objects, under the supervision of their Professor and in consultation with the Curator of Art Properties. Student conservation assessments, reports about each stage of their work, and technical photography are added to the Art Properties curatorial files so that future scholars can learn more about these objects in our collection. Below is one example of the work done by these students; future summaries will be posted over time to spread the word about this successful collaborative educational program. — Roberto C. Ferrari, Curator of Art Properties

Conservation Project & Report by Megan Randall, 2014

Image 2-croppedThe Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception
Probably 18th century, Spanish Colonial Mexico or Mesoamerica
Wood with traces of polychromy and gold leaf, with glass eyes
H. 8 1/2 in. (21.6 cm)
Art Properties, Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library
Columbia University in the City of New York
Gift of the Estate of Lola Szladits, 1990 (1990.8.25)

This treatment of the Spanish Colonial Virgin from the 18th century was completed as part of my training in the Polychrome Sculpture seminar with Professor Michele Marincola at the Institute of Fine Arts Conservation Center of New York University. I received the small statuette without any knowledge of its specific historical context or materials. As a result, the amount of information I gained in the examination and technical analysis of the object was significant. Although there are many interesting details of the treatment, research, and analysis of the statuette, this summary will deal with only one aspect of the treatment: the reversal and rejoining of the old repairs in the face of the figure.

Previous repairs to the face were failing. Small flakes of adhesive were loose in the join and the proper right segment of the face was visibly misaligned. In order to restore physical and visual integrity to the work, the adhesive in the join was reversed with ethanol and water and the old adhesive and insect residue on the surfaces were cleaned and slightly contoured to their proper alignment. The reversal of the old join revealed three things: the extent of the (dormant) insect activity in the form of worm holes and larva; the manufacturing method of securing the glass eyes in a ball of resin within a carved socket; and that the join consisted of three pieces instead of the previously-believed one piece.

DT_After Cleaning_HeadThe procedure of reversing the join, cleaning surfaces, and shaping the dry-fit of the three pieces into their proper alignment were completed with time, consideration, and significant restraint in order to achieve the best possible results. The rejoining of the pieces back onto the statuette also had to be done quickly to ensure the adhesive was still tacky. The process was a quick and efficient race of warming the surfaces, adhesive application, and clamping the join. Because this task would only take a minute or less to complete, it was necessary to practice ahead of time the order of the pieces to be adhered and the placement of the clamps so that any kinks in the process were considered and resolved prior to the treatment.

The surfaces were slightly heated with a radiant heat tool to encourage the affinity of the surfaces to the also-warm adhesive. Next, the warm adhesive, a 30% hide glue in distilled water, was applied to the surfaces with a brush, and the pieces were re-adhered to the statuette. Pressure was applied to the joins by using small clamps to ensure that the surfaces were properly connected. The clamps were left in place for 24 hours, then removed and inspected. The success of this phase of the treatment was thrilling. The treatment achieved the goals of restoring physical and visual integrity to the statuette and provided an ideal educational scenario to employ future treatment methods.DT_Clamping Detail

 

Avery Art Properties at the Norton Museum of Art

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Florine Stettheimer, Jenny and Genevieve, ca. 1915, oil on canvas, 32 x 43 3/8 in. (81.2 x 110.3 cm), Art Properties, Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University in the City of New York, Gift of the Estate of Ettie Stettheimer, 1967 (1967.23.27)

Art Properties has loaned six paintings by Florine Stettheimer and a drawing by Marguerite Zorach to the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida, for their current exhibition O’Keeffe, Stettheimer, Torr, Zorach: Women Modernists in New York. This exhibition considers the art and careers of Marguerite Zorach, Florine Stettheimer, Helen Torr, and Georgia O’Keeffe together for the first time. These women all knew one another and worked in New York. They sought to be recognized as artists in their own right, but their identity as women shaped the circumstances under which they worked, the forms their art took, and the way their pictures were interpreted. Among the works on loan from Art Properties is Stettheimer’s vibrantly-colored painting Jenny and Genevieve, which was conserved for this show. In this work the artist explores class and racial distinctions in her depiction of a black servant and a white customer in a cafe.

The Curl is back!!

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Clement Meadmore’s large public outdoor sculpture has returned to its home in front of Uris Hall!

Conservation Solutions recently reinstalled The Curl after it was offsite almost three months for conservation. A tent was erected for on-site painting and curing, after which it was rededicated in a ceremony held on December 16, 2015.

Thanks to Conservation Solutions and Columbia’s partners in this multi-year project: Office of the Provost, Columbia Business School, Columbia University Facilities, Columbia University Libraries, the Meadmore Task Force and the Committee on Art Properties.

To see a video of the rededication and more about The Curl  click here.

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Clement Meadmore, The Curl, 1968, Cor-Ten steel with paint, Gift of Percy Uris (1968.3.1), Photo: Brett Essler, Columbia Business School.

CUL/IS Showcase Donor-Funded Conservation of Important Portrait

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Columbia University Libraries Showcase Donor-Funded Conservation of Important Portrait

NEW YORK, November 1, 2015 – Columbia University Libraries/Information Services’ (CUL/IS) Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Art Properties, and the Health Sciences Library, Archives & Special Collections, are pleased to showcase the end result of a major conservation project generously funded by donors Geraldine and Robert J. Dellenback. Portrait of Sir Kenelm Digby (1603-1665) was painted by the British artist Cornelius Johnson (1593-1661). The painting is oil on panel and signed and dated 1626. It was a bequest in 1974 to the College of Physicians and Surgeons from the estate of Dr. Jerome P. Webster, Professor Emeritus of Clinical Surgery at Columbia, and is part of the Jerome P. Webster Library of Plastic Surgery housed in Archives & Special Collections. “It has been an honor to have provided the funds for the restoration of the remarkable portrait of Sir Kenelm Digby so that at last it might be in the place of honor it richly deserves,” said Mrs. Dellenback, the daughter of Dr. Webster. “This generous donation from the Dellenbacks,” adds Roberto C. Ferrari, Curator of Art Properties, “has been instrumental in helping us properly care for one of the finest British paintings in the Columbia University art collection, and continue to advance our mission of using the art collection at Columbia for educational programming, curricular integration, and research/study by students, faculty, and outside scholars.”

Over time, the structure of the painting’s wood panels had separated, paint losses continued to worsen, and the varnish had aged and altered the appearance of the picture, leading to the decision to place it in the temperature- and humidity-controlled storage vault of Art Properties until funds could be raised to pay for its full conservation. With funds donated by the Dellenbacks, Art Properties contracted with New York City-based specialists from Thomas Art Conservation and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, who worked on the painting in 2014. They restructured the wood panels, restored the frame, and conserved and cleaned the surface of the painting, revealing the exquisite portrait hidden beneath centuries of accumulated grime.

The artist, also known as Cornelis Janssen van Ceulen, was born in London, the son of exiles from Antwerp. His artistic career began during the latter years of James I. The portrait of Digby dates from the early part of the artist’s career, when he began moving away from depicting sitters in oval windows, but before he transitioned fully to painting works on canvas rather than wood panel. In her recent book on the artist, Karen Hearn, a retired curator from the National Portrait Gallery in London and Honorary Professor at University College London, has cited this portrait as one of the earliest examples of Johnson’s “melancholy-style,” another prime example of which is in the collection of The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, CA.

Digby, the sitter, was a member of an old and distinguished gentry family, although his father had been executed for collaboration in the Gunpowder Plot to kill the king and members of Parliament. Before he was twenty years of age, Digby had traveled extensively to Italy, France, and Spain, and in 1623 he was knighted and named a gentleman of the privy chamber of Charles I, then still Prince of Wales. Soon after this portrait was completed in 1626, Digby had a brief but successful career as a commander in the British navy, but after the unexpected death of his wife in 1633 he turned to the study of natural sciences and philosophy, and authored a number of treatises based on his own scientific and medical experiments. Digby’s work on the healing properties of the occult “powder of sympathy” included several references to the pioneering work of the Italian plastic surgeon Gaspare Tagliacozzi (1545-1599), whose biography Dr. Webster co-authored in the 1950s.

The Columbia University art collection, stewarded by Art Properties and based in Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, comprises over 10,000 works of fine and decorative art objects in all media from all time periods and all cultures. The portrait is on display in the Archives & Special Collections Geraldine McAlpin Webster Reading Room at the Health Sciences Library, and is available for viewing by appointment only. Archives & Special Collections serves as the archives for Columbia’s four health science schools, holds a 27,000-volume rare book library in the history of the health sciences, and has a growing number of personal papers. The Jerome P. Webster Library of Plastic Surgery forms part of the department’s holdings and is considered one of the world’s most comprehensive collections on the subject, with works dating from the 15th through the 20th centuries.

Image credit: Cornelius Johnson, Portrait of Sir Kenelm Digby (1603-1665), 1626, oil on panel, 31 x 24 in. (78.7 x 61 cm), Art Properties, Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University in the City of New York, Gift of the Estate of Dr. Jerome Webster (Professor Emeritus of Clinical Surgery) to the College of Physicians and Surgeons (C00.1308). Pre-conservation photo: Avery Library. Post-conservation photo: Juan Trujillo.

Celebrating Avery’s 125th!

Avery Friends gathered Monday November 2nd, 2015 for the inaugural celebration of Avery’s 125th anniversary year. A tour-de-force one-day only exhibition presented 125 treasured works from Avery’s venerable and storied collections.

If you missed this event, please join Avery Friends to ensure your invitation to upcoming Avery 125th events!

Selected photos from the exhibition and reception at Avery Library:

Avery Art Properties at de Young Museum

Arthur Wesley Dow, The Enchanted Mesa, 1913, oil on canvas, 32 3/4 x 54 in., Art Properties, Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University in the City of New York, Transferred from the Women’s Faculty Club (C00.1371).

Among the great American landscape paintings in the Columbia University art collection, stewarded by Art Properties, is The Enchanted Mesa by Arthur Wesley Dow. Painted in 1913, this painting depicts a Western mesa illuminated by the setting sun while the full moon rises above it. This painting was originally exhibited at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915, and has been loaned to the de Young Museum in San Francisco as part of their centenary exhibition of this groundbreaking exposition. Entitled “Jewel City: Art from San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition,” this exhibition brings together more than 200 works of art by American and European artists that were displayed there a century ago. The exhibition runs from October 17, 2015 to January 10, 2016.

 

website
https://deyoung.famsf.org/jewel-city

Avery Art Properties at the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race

During the Spring 2015 semester, Art Properties worked with Elizabeth Hutchinson, Associate Professor of Art History, Barnard College/Columbia University, and her students on a set of ten drawings from the 1890s made by the Inupiat people. These drawings depict aspects of a ceremonial ritual still performed by some groups in Northwest Alaska, and are part of the extensive Bush Collection of Religion and Culture, donated to Columbia by alumnus and Philosophy instructor Wendell Ter Bush (1867-1941). The result of this curricular collaboration is an exhibition curated by Prof. Hutchinson with her students and installed in the Gallery at the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, Hamilton Hall, on the Morningside campus of Columbia University. These fascinating drawings, made by unknown indigenous artists, document moments in the Messenger Feast, an essential event in the ceremonial lives of the Inupiat people. The drawing seen here depicts the Wolf Dance. Entitled “Messages from across Time and Space: Inupiat Drawings from the 1890s at Columbia University,” the exhibition runs September 22-November 20, 2015.

For more information about these works, visit the accompanying exhibition website.

Video – https://vimeo.com/143379011