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Subject: Ben Shahn painting

Ben Shahn painting

From: Timothy Vitale <tjvitale>
Date: Tuesday, February 24, 1998
Patrica Smithen <smithen [at] fornax__ebtech__net> writes

>I am currently examining a 1951 Ben Shahn painting for treatment.
>It was recorded as tempera on panel, however it turns out to be a
>gouache medium on paper on linen.
>... The painting has a few problems,
>the most serious one being that about 60% of the surface is cracked
>and exhibiting microtenting and flaking...
>Has anyone out there encountered other Ben Shahn paintings recently
>with a similar phenomenon?  Also, does anyone have any suggestions
>regarding consolidants

I treated a 3' X 4' Ben Shahn gouache painting with flaking paint
and water stains that was mounted on cardboard with a water-based
adhesive, in the early 1980's.  As I recall, I used two linings of
heavy weight Japanese paper (probably Okawara) and then mounted it
on a solid support (ragboard-faced Tycore panel) using the solvent
activation method.  The mounting adhesive was BEVA (made from the
solid materials), which I will never use again because one could
smell the adhesive before you could view the painting on the wall.

After trying several consolidants I used cellulose acetate in
acetone followed by a chaser of MEK to move the adhesive away from
the surface (evaporates very quickly, leaving a fissured adhesive
surface hence matte appearance).  It was a wonderful consolidant.
Today, cellulose acetate has a poor reputation so I have tried other
consolidants for similar projects.  I'm still not a fan of B-72
consolidation because of difficulties with saturation and surface
appearance (yes, I've tried benzyl alcohol).

Recently, I was given a small quantity of Funori for use on flaking
"gouache" on an Japanese screen, it worked beyond belief.  It saved
the project.  The water softened the paint allowing it to lay flat
(in 50%+ cases), and one application usually worked.  Paint that had
a pronounced curl laid flat when wet but generally curled up again
when dry, but not quite as badly.  There were no rings and the paint
seemed tightly adhered.  Thicker, more damaged, paint sometimes
required a second application, still no rings.  A few areas required
a third application. Ringing was possible in the third application
but could be avoided if evaporation was slowed by placing one or two
layers of polyester web and weights on the treated area.  I was told
that whole Oriental paintings have been consolidated with Funori in
one operation, however, we did not find it necessary or desirable on
the project.

Timothy Vitale
Paper and Photography Conservator
Aptos and Felton, CA
408-684-2731 office
408-335-2541 studio

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                  Conservation DistList Instance 11:72
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Received on Tuesday, 24 February, 1998

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