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Museum Mondays: Some of the science behind painting conservation

October 28, 2012

With generous support from the Hollensteiner fund, the Wright Museum has sent an American landscape painting for conservation.

Picnic on the Alleghany, a landscape by Henrik Meyer, was originally gifted to the Museum collection by Samuel J. Campbell as part of a bequest in 1981. This painting from 1937 depicts a group of picnickers interrupted by an approaching storm. The work won second place in landscapes at the annual showing of the National Academy of painting and sculpture in 1937, and 75 years later still conveys the “Bellows-like depiction in green and gold.”

picnic 2 

According to the assessment by conservators at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, “The paint/ground are generally stable. There are no visible sites of flaking or insecurity.”

Noting the resinous material (the reason for the glare in the picture) the conservators explain how “examination in ultraviolet light and solvent tests suggests they are natural resin varnishes.”

However, there is a “significant grime layer” deposited on the surface and embedded in the varnish. The conservation will require a deep cleaning to remove this grime, but once finished the original coloration of the paint will be revealed. The Museum will be holding the annual Wanda Hollensteiner’54 Conservation Lecture once the conservation work is completed.

Look for the return of the renovated Picnic on the Alleghany this spring.