PUVIS DE CHAVANNES'S ALLEGORICAL MURALS IN THE BOSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY: HISTORY, TECHNIQUE, AND CONSERVATION
TERI HENSICK, KATE OLIVIER, & GIANFRANCO POCOBENE
The conservation decisions that were reached were based on the scale and urgency of the problems faced. Using the citrate and detergent gel solution proved to be the safest and most effective way of removing the surface grime and the worst effects of the stains and drip marks. Although concerns about the effect of this solution on paint layers should not be ignored, in this instance its positive attributes were decisive. An important factor was that it caused no blanching, thus eliminating the need for varnish.
Puvis's skillful and remarkable integration of a mural cycle into a complex space for a building he never saw is a testament to his unusual abilities. While it is recognized that Puvis's images had a significant influence on 20th-century painting, the impact of his highly individual painting technique has not been adequately acknowledged. Painting in oils on canvas, he combined various methods and materials to imitate the matte appearance of frescoes. He used coarse canvases, absorbent grounds, drained oils, pigments mixed with large amounts of white, and a variety of texturing techniques. Contrary to common practice in the first half of 19th-century France, he did not add varnish and other ingredients to his medium, nor did he apply a final varnish coating to his murals. His role in the introduction of these innovative techniques, which became common practice in this century, warrants further investigation.