Evolving steps in preserving art, history and culture

Last Friday I stopped in at D. Pratt, Framer in Kittery, Maine, and picked up the newly reframed “A Visitor – Holland” by Martha Silsbee. Folks who tune in to Barbara van Buskirk, Artist on Facebook may remember my post on November 11, 2016, in which I mentioned I’d acquired this undated watercolor and pastel from Northeast Auctions’s New Hampshire Fall Auction. When I saw the reframed “A Visitor – Holland,” it took my breath away!

I’ve now completed three projects to preserve original works of American art and the legacies of two American artists whose work I love.

Project #1
Untitled by Carl Van Buskirk (1886-1930). 
Color monotype and ink. No date.

My mom gave me this original monotype in 2008 during a visit to my family home where it had hung since about 1987 when Mom and Dad acquired it from the estate of my grandmother, Rita Van Buskirk, who lived in Santa Barbara, California. At the time I received my grandfather’s picture, I’d been making and framing my own original monotypes for eight years, so I felt comfortable and confident reframing Carl’s untitled monotype myself. I aimed to stay true to how this piece was framed when I received it.

The steps I took to better preserve Carl Van Buskirk’s untitled color monotype and ink included a new custom made frame from Bruce Loyd Furniture Maker, Albuquerque, New Mexico; new silver matboard which mirrored the original mat (sorry to say, silver matboard is not available in archival or acid free quality); acid free foam core; and archival quality linen hinging tape.

Project #2
“The Goodest Goodest” by Carl Van Buskirk (1886-1930). Color pastel. 1913.

Folks who follow this blog on www.bvanb.com might recall the post “Preserving works on paper as well as family history” which I published on June 8, 2016.

In addition to being more than 100 years old, my grandfather’s color pastel was painted on wafer thin paper and showed some fading and water damage. This project clearly was beyond my level of skills, so I took the piece to the pros at D. Pratt, Framer.

The steps they took to better preserve Carl Van Buskirk’s “The Goodest Goodest” included a new frame, museum quality glass, archival quality mat, acid free foam core, and archival quality hinging tape.

Project #3
“A Visitor – Holland” by Martha Silsbee ((1859-1928). Watercolor and pastel.
No date.

“The frame is probably worth more than the picture,” the man who worked at Northeast Auctions in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, told me when I picked up “A Visitor – Holland” by Martha Silsbee in November 2016. Hmm. I loved the picture. I hadn’t given the frame any thought beyond noticing a couple of labels glued to the back of the frame, one of which was from the Philadelphia Watercolor Society’s Ninth Annual Watercolor Exhibition in 1911. Once again, I turned to the pros at D. Pratt, Framer for their expertise and guidance in reframing this beautiful piece of art.

David Pratt knew at a glance the frame had been made by hand (not manufactured) and  gold leaf lay beneath the radiator paint which, at some point in time, had been applied to the front surface of the frame. “If I were having the piece reframed,” David told me, “I would restore the frame first.” Abby at D. Pratt, Framer led me to Jared Tuveson of Tuveson Studios in Rollinsford, New Hampshire. Jared is a pro who didn’t blink an email eye when he saw the photo of “A Visitor – Holland.” Jared sanded the surface of the frame smooth, sealed the frame then regilded it.

Steps taken to better preserve Martha Silsbee’s “A Visitor – Holland” included restoration of the 100+ year custom made frame, spacers to provide air space between the picture and glass (this piece had originally been framed without a mat and we wanted to keep it in its original frame), and museum quality glass.

I’m finding preserving and caring for art to be incredibly fun, interesting and satisfying. Yes, this work involves an investment in time, energy and resources, all of which is a pleasure. I’m learning more about art, art restoration, conservation, history, and culture. In addition, my eyes delight in seeing these original pieces of art each and every day, adding beauty and grace to my life and our home.

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