Luca Bonetti Painting Conservation Studio (Manhattan, NY) is seeking a full time or part time painting conservator to assist senior conservators in various projects, mostly with contemporary paintings. The candidate should have 2-6 years of post-graduate experience in conservation, and should be motivated to explore novel techniques for solving complex conservation issues. The candidate should be dedicated to furthering their education and training within the conservation field. This studio provides regular opportunities to participate in the conservation of significant modern and contemporary artworks, and to work directly with experienced conservators. There is room for the candidate to take on greater responsibilities over time. The ideal candidate will have strong analytical skills, communication skills (verbal and written), computer skills (including digital photography and photo editing), as well as demonstrated technical conservation skills.
Please submit a cover letter stating your interests and background, a CV, and salary requirements to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Luca Bonetti, Corp.
Conservation and Restoration of Paintings
154 West 18th Street 2A
New York, NY 10011
Location: The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, County Durham
Educational Stipend: GBP16,000
The Bowes Museum, in partnership with Icon, and with the generous support of the Heritage Lottery Fund is offering a programme of Paintings Conservation internships from 2014 to 2019. The Museum will host one paintings intern per year, to work within the conservation department.
Based in the conservation studio at the Bowes Museum the intern will gain hands on experience working on the acclaimed collection of European paintings acquired by John and Josephine Bowes. This includes one of the largest collections of Spanish Paintings in any British museum. More information is available at www.thebowesmuseum.org.uk.
Working with the Paintings Conservator, the intern will carry out conservation assessments and treatments on paintings from the collection. As part of the conservation team, the intern will gain practical, preventive and workplace skills, tailored to help them develop their career in conservation. Projects throughout the year will include:
Conserving paintings for exhibitions and displays
Preventive conservation of the painting collections
Preparing paintings for loan/ tour
Regular contributions to The Bowes Museum blog
Publicizing the work of the department through networking with other professionals, attending conferences, publications etc.
Promoting Conservation through activities working with local colleges and schools
Candidates will be asked to present a portfolio with evidence of their conservation work and/or related painting skills at the interview.
You can apply for these placements if you have a recognized qualification in conservation, preferably specializing in paintings. Applicants wishing to pursue a career in paintings conservation, without formal training, but with a demonstrable interest in museums conservation and heritage, and able to demonstrate a high level of painting skills will also be considered. Applicants from all backgrounds are encouraged to apply
Issues encountered during analysis and treatment of contemporary artworks by conservation scientists, conservators, and other professionals have been brought into the limelight during recent years. Both in the United States and throughout the world, contemporary art collections have introduced new concerns regarding the use of modern materials, artists’ intent, and so on. Even the modern use of materials such as oil paints have demonstrated conservation issues. During this presentation, Bronken described her team’s research into oil paintings (created after 1950) which have exhibited softening and dripping media. The team’s research was conducted on works produced by Jean-Paul Riopelle (Canadian, 1923-2002), Pierre Soulages (French, b. 1919), Georges Matthieu (French, 1921-2012), Paul-Émile Borduas (Canadian, 1905-1960), Frank Van Hemert (Dutch, b. 1956), Paul Walls (Irish, b. 1965), Jonathan Meese (German, b. 1970), and Tal R (Danish, b. 1967).
Softened paint shows decreased surface gloss in normal light and drip material fluoresces in ultraviolet light (sometimes misinterpreted as fluorescing varnish). Softening/dripping impasto and thickly applied paints are easier to identify, but analysis has demonstrated the presence of softening in thinner paint layers as well. Possible causes of this phenomenon are the use of semi-drying oils in recent decades and the development of fatty acids in paint. In their abstract, the authors mention: “There is ample evidence from a number of paints studied by mass spectrometry that the exudates are rich in polar fractions with triglycerides with moieties of mid-chain oxygen-functionalised stearic acids and azelaic acids . . . observations led to the hypothesis that exudation is caused by a loss or absence of anchor sites for the acidic fractions that develop over time.”1
Lead II acetate and europium II acetate were tested by brush and gel application. These compounds treated the softening and dripping oil paint at the molecular level by penetrating into the sample to create carboxylates and forming a hard crust on the paint surface. Brush application was determined to be the most effective method. At this time, the only disadvantage appears to be the lack of reversibility.
About the Speakers
Ida Antonia Tank Bronken, Touring Exhibitions Coordinator, The National Museum, Norway
Bronken graduated from the University of Oslo with a Candidata Magisterii in Fine Art Conservation (2002) and a Masters in Conservation (2009). Bronken has been working for the Touring Exhibitions Department at the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design in Norway since 2011. Her main interests are collection management and chemical change in modern paint. Bronken has cooperated with Boon since 2007 on different studies on softening and dripping paint, and has contributed to four papers since 2013 about dripping paint (currently at different stages of publication and review).2
Jaap J. Boon, JAAP Enterprise for Art Scientific Studies
Boon, PhD was trained in Geology and Chemistry at the Universities of Amsterdam, Utrecht and Delft Technical University (1978). He became Head of Molecular Physics at the FOM Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics (1987) and Professor of Molecular Palaeobotany at the University of Amsterdam (1988). His first survey studies on painting materials and traditional paints were performed in 1991, which resulted in collaborative research with Tate Gallery London, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Limburg Conservation Studio (SRAL) in Maastricht and EU supported development projects. His research focus changed gradually from identification of constituents towards chemical microscopy and spectroscopic imaging of pigments, binding media and their interactions in paintings. Boon was Professor of Analytical Mass Spectrometry in the University of Amsterdam (2003-2009) and is presently author/coauthor of about 400 research papers and supervised 33 PhD theses. Boon received the KNAW Gilles Holst Gold Medal for his innovative work at the cross roads of chemistry and physics in 2007.3
Elise Effmann Clifford, Head of Paintings Conservation at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF), presented a case study dealing with the complex topic of evaluating a painting’s attribution, drawing on the research of psychologists to consider the biases at play when conservators and scholars approach such investigations. The artwork in question was a portrait of Pierre-Edouard Baranowski, which entered the collection of the FAMSF as a painting by Amedeo Modigliani from 1918. After a demotion in attribution in the 1990s, the painting was subsequently reattributed to the artist in recent years. Effmann traced the research trails of both investigations in her talk, evaluating the reasoning of each that led to their opposing conclusions.
The first of these investigations began soon after the painting entered the FAMSF collection in the early 1980s, when scholars and dealers first raised doubts over the authenticity of the work. These were based on the existence of another portrait of Baranowski by Modigliani in the collection of Robert and Lisa Sainsbury from 1937-1999, and referred to as the ex-Sainsbury painting in this talk. This work has airtight provenance and little doubt over authorship. It is painted in a style typical of the artist. Two portraits of Baranowski were mentioned in the earliest catalog of Modigliani’s work, but this states both were on canvas, where the FAMSF painting is on hardboard. Only the ex-Sainsbury painting is mentioned in subsequent catalogs. The provenance of the FAMSF painting was unknown prior to 1953, the year the donor purchased the work. A report from the FAMSF conservation department notes an underlying composition of what appeared to by a figure similar to those in an early series by Modigliani. Early restoration treatments to address flaking paint were noted, as was an early campaign of overpaint in the face. Expert opinions were sought, and at least 7 records from dealers and scholars exist in the curatorial file stating they did not consider the painting to be by the artist, that something was not quite right. The FAMSF painting’s lack of technical similarities to the ex-Sainsbury painting, incomplete provenance, its absence in early catalogs of Modigliani, including the irrefutable Ambrogio Ceroni catalogue raisonne, and the frequency of Modigliani forgeries all contributed to a decision to deattribute the painting. This was made official after the painting was taken to England to compare to the ex-Sainsbury painting in 1994.
Prompted by questions raised by the family of the donor, a technical investigation of the painting began in 2011. Effmann found more information on the unusual underlying painting, finding other similar compositions by the artist, also on hardboard. She found other examples of similar paint application, and discussions with conservators and scholars revealed that the artist showed a great deal of variety in his technique. There were several fingerprints found in the paint, ignored in the earlier investigation. Effmann also traced the provenance almost back to the artist. Current experts were consulted in light of the new information, and the attribution to Modigliani was reinstated.
Effmann notes that in hindsight, the authenticity of the painting seemed obvious. She found herself reflecting on the trajectory of research and reasoning that led to the initial conclusion that the painting was a poor-quality copy, and the role that bias may have played. The idea that such research outcomes may be influenced by cognitive biases has never been examined in the context of conservation, so Effmann turned to psychology, where the topic has been a significant area of research since the 1970s. She discussed the implications of heuristics, or cognitive shortcuts, we make constantly in order to quickly and efficiently process the vast amount of information we encounter. These heuristics usually serve us well, but cognitive psychologists have studied numerous ways in which they can lead to predictable errors or biases. Effmann identified several biases at play, including Attribute Substitution, when a difficult question is unconsciously replaced by a simpler one. Here, the question of ‘is this painting genuine?’ was replaced with ‘does this painting look like the other painting?’ Confirmation Bias (the tendency to favour information that agrees with preconceived hypotheses), Overconfidence Bias (overestimating the accuracy of one’s conclusion), and even Hindsight Bias (feeling as though one ‘knew it all along’) were all at play in the course of these events. (A good introduction into this topic is Daniel Kahneman’s ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011).
When we sit down at our microscopes, don our UV goggles, take endless notes, measurements, and photographs for documentation, it is easy to think we are looking at these artworks objectively. But the reality is: we’re not. Whether we’re embarking on a large-scale research project, or writing a condition report, we are drawing on previous experience and opinion which is necessary to guide us and make sense of the world around us efficiently, but can also lead us astray. Effmann says she’ll continue to research the topic of bias in the future, and I look forward to seeing what she finds. I know that I’ll be considering the reasons behind my reasoning much more carefully from now on.
I’m am extremely excited that I signed up to write a blog post for this Paintings Group Session at the 41st Annual Meeting for AIC: The Contemporary in Conservation this week in Indianapolis. As an emerging conservator specializing in the conservation of paintings, I found this discussion very important for our field and I was so pleased that Matthew Cushman gathered this renowned group of conservators together for the discussion. The discussion (Current Challenges and Opportunities in Paintings Conservation) was well attended and the four presentations provoked important questions and topics for group discussion. This post isn’t intended for solely paintings conservators, but for all fine art conservators, restorers, and any people looking to find out more about the preservation and future of fine art.