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Subject: A death

A death

From: Emily Jacobson <ejacobson>
Date: Tuesday, May 13, 2003
Stanley Robertson, master gilder and conservator of historic
gold-leafed objects, including the antique frames of many renowned
works of art, died of lung cancer Sunday, May 4th, 2003.  He was 65.

A native of Edinburgh, Scotland, who in 1973 became an American
citizen in Hawaii, Mr. Robertson created an international
consultancy restoring, preserving, researching and documenting,
lecturing and publishing on the conservation of decorated artifacts,
with a special expertise in 15th-19th C. wooden objects.  He was a
master gilder whose works included church and cathedral fittings,
altarpieces, console tables, girandole mirrors, architectural
ornamenting, panel paintings, bas reliefs, friezes and the
decorative features of fine musical instruments, in addition to
frames for historic works of art.

Chelsea Lane Conservation Studio, Mr. Robertson's private practice
in Washington since 1986, served numerous private clients as well as
collections in the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, the Treasury
Building, the National Portrait Gallery, the Federal Reserve, the
Corcoran Gallery, the John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art in
Sarasota, FL, the Hermitage in Nashville, Goodwood House in
Tallahassee, FL, the Missouri Historical Society, the Pennsylvania
Museum of History and many other galleries and museums.

Mr. Robertson performed collection surveys for the Bass Museum in
Miami, Knott House in Tallahassee and the Freer and Sackler
Galleries in Washington, among others, and he held faculty positions
in a variety of educational programs, including Smithsonian Resident
Associates, National Gallery of Art Docents, and Campbell
Preservation Center near Chicago.  His extensive knowledge of
historical gilding techniques, dating of gold- and silver-leafed
materials, care of art objects on loan, treatment of damaged
artworks, organic solvents, restoration of gilded surfaces and the
history of gilded frames was shared in published articles, lectures
and classes, as well as in private consultations.

Prior to his life as a conservator, Mr. Robertson was a professional
musician from 1961-73, playing bass and flute in live performances
and recorded albums with the popular Society of Seven, based in Hong
Kong and later in Honolulu. Mr. Robertson also appeared with "SOS"
on the Ed Sullivan Show; headliners in their own performances, the
group also opened for Frank Sinatra, Sonny and Cher, and others
giants of the music industry, and undertook numerous charitable
engagements benefiting the state of Hawaii and earning special
commendations from the Governor.

After service in the Royal Air Force, he studied art history and the
chemistry/physics of organic solvents at Darroch College, taking
supplementary courses at the Edinburgh College of Art.  He began his
conservation career with a formal European-style apprenticeship in
the studio of Jean Alot, Patron and Master of the Guild of Gilders
in Paris. During the time of his professional preparation, he
traveled throughout Europe studying antique frame styles and the
history of art, also pursuing further studies at London University
College and the Conservation of Arts/Interpretation of Cultural
Heritage program at the University of California at Davis.

Mr. Robertson's advanced work leading to journeyman status in
gilding was begun at the Upbrook Studio in London and completed at
the Paul Levi Studio in London, after which he joined the staff of
the National Gallery of Art in Washington, where he was Conservator
of Frames from February 1984 to November 1986.  Among other
professional accomplishments, he translated an antique frame catalog
from German to English, and an 18th C. book of gilding, varnishing
and painting from French to English.

In frequent newspaper and magazine profiles, Mr. Robertson was known
to insist, "Frames are an art form in themselves?the person who put
in all the work that went into carving meant it to be as beautiful
as the painter did."  He could read the history of a gilded piece in
its surface, despite layers of old paint, dirt, abrasion and weather
damage, calling his work an adventure, "like unraveling a mystery.
Sometimes I feel like I'm a detective?just start at the top. Most
pieces, if they have any historical significance at all, are worth

A Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation,
Mr. Robertson was also a past president of the American Society of
Gilders and the Washington Conservation Guild; he held membership in
the National Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Property and
the Guild of British Craftsmen and was on the advisory board of
Chicago's Campbell Center for Preservation. He also belonged to the
St. Andrews Society and the Fellowship of Friends. Having recently
acquired a new interest in carving decorative waterfowl, Mr.
Robertson became a Friend of the Ward Museum of Waterfowl Art and
several carving organizations.  He found incredible love and support
from the One-Day-At-A-Time cancer support group based at Sibley

Mr. Robertson is survived by his wife Sandra Spence of Washington,
DC, and his former wife Amanda Raphaelson of Frederick, Maryland.
His survivors also include two sisters:  Maureen Kerr of Edinburgh,
Scotland, and Laura Kulick of Yorkshire, England.  Donations in
Stanley's memory may be sent to

    The Greater Washington Coalition for Cancer Survivors
    4848 Albemarle St. NW
    Washington DC 20016


    The Ward Museum of Waterfowl Art
    909 S. Schumaker Dr.
    Salisbury MD  21804

or the charity of your choice.

Attention conservators: Stanley had a rare form of lung cancer that
is not necessarily caused by smoking, though he did smoke many years
ago.  It is believed that a contributor to his cancer was his use of
solvents in his gilding work sans mask and in unventilated space.

                  Conservation DistList Instance 16:71
                   Distributed: Tuesday, May 13, 2003
                       Message Id: cdl-16-71-001
Received on Tuesday, 13 May, 2003

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