Conservation DistList Archives [Date] [Subject] [Author] [SEARCH]

Subject: Art Institute of Chicago receives Mellon grant

Art Institute of Chicago receives Mellon grant

From: John Hindman <jhindm>
Date: Thursday, August 7, 2003
Art Institute Announces $2.75 Million Grant
from Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Award Will Aid Conservation and Scientific Research on Art

The Art Institute of Chicago has announced the award of a $2.75
million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This generous
gift will endow a new senior Art Institute position-that of
Conservation Scientist within the museum's Department of
Conservation-and provide funds for use over a five-year period to
purchase analytical instruments, establish and operate a scientific
laboratory for analysis, and conduct research on the museum's
collection. The Art Institute made this announcement on the occasion
of the appointment of Francesca Casadio to the endowed position.

James N. Wood, Art Institute Director and President, said,

   "We are deeply grateful to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for
    their far-sighted recognition of the importance of scientific
    research in the field of art conservation. Moreover, we thank
    them for making possible the addition of such a qualified
    scientist to our permanent staff. These are challenging
    financial times for all museums, and the foundation's
    willingness to make this award with a minimal matching
    requirement has allowed us to proceed. In the years ahead we
    will be better prepared to both preserve our own priceless
    collections and contribute our scientific findings to the wider
    field of research."

The addition of a conservation scientist to the Department of
Conservation staff will greatly enhance the Art Institute's ability
to preserve and study its permanent collection, one that encompasses
major works from many cultures, from ancient to contemporary
periods, and includes some 250,000 works divided among 10 curatorial
departments. Since the establishment of the Department of
Conservation, in 1962, the Art Institute has developed facilities
for the conservation of paintings, works on paper, textiles,
photographs, three-dimensional objects, and books.

Currently, the Art Institute has a total of 20 conservators on
staff, museum professionals who work in concert with curators in
preserving the collection and conducting intensive study of the
objects in their care. The results of their research are shared with
a variety of audiences-through exhibitions, exhibition catalogues,
scholarly catalogues of the permanent collection, articles in the
museum's semi-annual journal, presentations at professional
meetings, publication in professional journals, public lectures, and
tours of the galleries and conservation facilities.

Frank Zuccari, Executive Director of Conservation said,

   "By adding a conservation scientist to the staff, the Art
    Institute is creating a critical new component in this
    partnership, one that greatly enhances its conservation and
    research capabilities. We are most grateful to the Andrew W.
    Mellon Foundation for supporting this important initiative."

During the past 20 years, Art Institute conservators and curators
have collaborated on a number of fascinating projects:

    *   The acclaimed Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South
        exhibition was able to introduce important new evidence that
        resulted from a four-year study combining technical and
        archival investigations into the artists' working methods.
        For example, analysis of a group of pictures painted on a
        20-meter length of coarse jute canvas purchased by the
        artists revealed important patterns of technical
        experimentation and helped establish a crucial chronology of
        their time together. The result was a much broader and
        clearer picture of how their dialogue unfolded, and the
        specific ways in which they influenced each other's art.

    *   An intensive 1982-84 study of the materials and techniques
        used in the painting of George Seurat's Sunday on La Grande
        Jatte-1884 provided for the first time an analysis of
        changes in specific colors that had occurred soon after the
        work's completion-changes altering the artist's original
        intent. The upcoming exhibition Seurat and the Making of "La
        Grande Jatte" (opening June 16, 2004) will afford renewed
        opportunity to study the artist's working methods using
        x-ray and IR reflectography images with the assistance of
        computer technology to facilitate the search for the
        artist's changes.

    *   The Department of European Paintings is currently working
        with the Conservation department on research for a scholarly
        catalogue of the museum's collection of Netherlandish,
        French, German, and Spanish paintings before 1600. The
        supervising curator and conservator are collaborating with a
        staff microscopist to analyze painting samples, also using
        an infrared imaging system.

    *   In 1996-97, the European Painting and Conservation
        departments worked closely on a detailed study of an
        18th-century French painting, the authorship of which was in
        question. The study yielded convincing evidence that
        attributed the work to the great Jean Antoine Watteau.

    *   During a long-term study of Old Master Italian drawings in
        the Art Institute's collection, a Prints and Drawings
        Conservator developed an innovative method to reverse the
        disfiguring effects of lead white oxidation. This approach
        proved so successful that hundreds of drawings have been
        treated in this manner, many of which were reproduced in the
        1997 catalogue Italian Drawings before 1600 in The Art
        Institute of Chicago.

In addition to the daily activities of collections care and
management, the treatment of works of art is a critical aspect of
the Art Institute's larger conservation program. Curators and
conservators work together to design treatments that will prolong
the life of a work, as well as preserve and-if necessary-restore
aesthetic appearance. This undertaking is significantly deepened and
enhanced by a scientific component in the museum's conservation
unit. Conservation Scientist Appointment

The Museum has also announced the appointment of Francesca Casadio
to the newly created and endowed position of Conservation Scientist.
Ms. Casadio-who assumed her position July 21, 2003-will fill a
critical role for The Art Institute of Chicago in establishing and
directing a conservation science program. Her primary activities
will focus on conducting analyses of works of art, studying their
structural and chemical nature with state-of-the-art analytical
instruments to investigate and characterize their constituent
materials, both organic and inorganic. Research tools-including
Fourier Transform infrared (FTIR) and Raman spectroscopies, Scanning
Electron Microscopy (SEM) with Energy dispersive x-Ray analysis
(EDX), x-ray diffraction, and x-ray fluorescence-will be employed in
examining a wide range of materials used in the making of works of
art. Scientific methods will also be applied to investigate
deterioration of works in the collection and to devise conservation

Scientific research will target the various media represented in the
Art Institute's collection: pigments, paint binding media,
varnishes, adhesives, textiles, paper, wood, photographic materials,
stone, metal, ceramics, glass, and plastics, among other materials.
Following a fully integrated approach, information developed from
this analytical work, combined with the empirical knowledge of
materials and their history already possessed by the Art Institute's
Conservation department, will be of value in gaining a deeper
understanding of these artworks and developing strategies to
preserve them. Moreover, the newly established scientific laboratory
will allow the Art Institute to join the international network of
conservation scientists at other institutions, thus developing
partnerships, helping dissemination of results, and maximizing both
research productivity and quality.

Francesca Casadio received her Ph.D. (2001) and M.S. degrees in
Chemistry from the University of Milan, Italy, and her Bachelor's
degree in Arts and Humanities from the Liceo Classico M. D'Azeglio,
Italy, in 1992. Her doctoral dissertation was on the investigation
of protective treatments applied to stone materials of historic
and/or artistic value, focusing on scientific examination of the
impregnating behavior and performances of synthetic polymers used in
conserving particular art and historical objects made of stone. Ms.
Casadio has published on numerous topics in the conservation science
field, dealing with both movable and immovable cultural heritage,
including: the use of micro-FTIR and micro-Raman spectroscopy for
the characterization of pigments and cross sections; the penetration
of protective polymer coatings into stone; analytical study  of
detaching methodologies for fresco paintings; the investigation of
films and patinas on the Istria stone; and the analysis of
polychrome decorations on the main entrance portal of the Basilica
of St. Ambrogio, one of the oldest churches in Milan.

Most recently, Ms. Casadio has conducted analytical research for a
major conservation project, preservation of the facade of the Duomo,
the spectacular famed Gothic church in Milan. Ms. Casadio's work
included assessment of the decay and restoration products that are
present on the surface, an evaluation of the cleaning tests, and the
development of systems for consolidation and surface protection.

John Foley Hindman
Associate Director of Public Affairs
The Art Institute of Chicago

                  Conservation DistList Instance 17:19
                  Distributed: Friday, August 8, 2003
                       Message Id: cdl-17-19-006
Received on Thursday, 7 August, 2003

[Search all CoOL documents]

Timestamp: Thursday, 26-Jan-2012 15:56:53 PST
Retrieved: Thursday, 21-Nov-2019 22:25:06 GMT