In 1937 a young painter named Henrik Mayer submitted an oil painting titled Picnic on the Allegheny to the National Academy of Design. He won second place for landscapes. The judges marveled at the “greens and golds” of this young regionalist. In 1981 Picnic on the Allegheny came to the Wright Museum under the bequest of Samuel J. Campbell, a Beloiter who graduated 100 years ago.
Last fall the Wright Museum sent this painting to the Minneapolis Art Conservation Center for treatment, and this week the museum will be unveiling the painting at the annual Hollensteiner Conservation Lecture.
In the 76 years since being judged by the academy, Picnic has held up very well. In the assessment, conservators note that “the linen support is stable…the proprietary stretchers are original...there are no visible sites of flaking or insecurity, and no visible sites of previous retouching.”
However, the conservators also noted that the “resin is discolored to a medium amber and color saturation is poor. A significant grime layer is deposited both on the surface and embedded in the varnish.” With minor structural repairs, including the re-stretching of the canvas and an addition of back brace, and a major cleaning overhaul, the conservators at the MACC will rejuvenate the painting to the colors and luminescence that was originally judged back in 1937.
The unveiling of the recently conserved Picnic on the Allegheny will take place on Wednesday (Feb. 6) starting at 6:30 p.m. in the Wright Museum of Art, and will be immediately followed by a lecture on Mayer and the Regionalists by art scholar Francis Pugh.