Collaboration in the treatment of Rodin’s The Thinker in Kansas City

Jonathan Taggart


The treatment of Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker in Kansas City, Missouri was a collaboration among the City of Kansas City Parks and Recreation Planning Architect, Pete Laughlin; two consulting conservators (Kate Garland, Objects Conservator, and Forest Bailey, Paintings Conservator, both with Kansas City’s Nelson/Atkins Museum), and the contracting conservator, Jonathan Taggart.

The criteria for the proposed treatment included: 1) improved appearance, 2) improved long-term stability, 3) maintainability, 4) completion of the treatment with the least aggressive means practical, and 5) completion with greatest degree of reversibility reasonable.

The collaborative choice of treatment was: 1) walnut shell cleaning, 2) coating with INCRALAC, 3) inpainting of the remaining disfigured areas with dry pigments in solvent-based acrylics media, 4) encapsulation of the paint layer in a final layer of INCRALAC, 5) application of a carnauba/microcrystalline cold wax as a maintainable coating, and 6) design and installation of a mounting system. Subsequent maintenance of The Thinker would be performed by the conservation staff of the Nelson/Atkins Museum. The inpainting of outdoor sculpture was adapted from treatments completed by Henry Lie of the Harvard University Art Museum.

Stronger cleaning techniques, patinating, and hot wax protective coatings were all thought to be too aggressive or permanent, considering the treatment criteria. However, the chosen treatment did not eliminate these other choices from future consideration.

The resulting treatment eliminated the disfiguring flat green/black drip pattern of the deteriorated surface, while revealing the sculptural modeling and details. The overall appearance is darker, more even and saturated in appearance, while it retains the greenish patina of age.

1996 | Norfolk | Volume 4