STEPHEN HACKNEY, RICA JONES, and JOYCE TOWNSEND, EDS., PAINT AND PURPOSE: A STUDY OF TECHNIQUE IN BRITISH ART. London: Tate Gallery Publishing Ltd., 1999. 256 pages, softcover, £19.99. ISBN 1-85437-248-3.
This beautifully illustrated book presents detailed technical analyses of 32 British paintings from the Tate Gallery's collection. The featured paintings range in date from 1594 to 1958 and are executed in a range of traditional media that include drying oils, egg, natural resins, glue, gums, and waxes. The entries are presented chronologically in three sections defined by the painting's support: canvas, panel, or paper. The common relationship among the paintings is that they were painted either in England or by British artists working abroad. Each painting has its own entry describing the technical findings, and, whenever possible, the author relates these findings to contemporary sources. The book begins with a chapter on methods of examination and analysis and concludes with a glossary defining painting materials and techniques.
As stated in the introduction, the book builds upon the 20-year tradition established by the National Gallery (London) Technical Bulletins. The authors refer to the three Art in the Making exhibition catalogs produced by the National Gallery (London) that focus on a particular artist, movement, or era. However, unlike these publications, the authors of Paint and Purpose prefer “simply to assess the technical information from individual paintings” rather than to present specific conclusions. The rationale for studying this particular group of paintings includes their being the subject of major exhibitions, topics for research by individual conservators or scientists, or by Sir Joshua Reynolds in preparation for treating the Tate's large collection of his work.
Paint and Purpose begins with a chapter on methods of examination and analysis written by Stephen Hackney and Joyce Townsend. This chapter presents a general introduction and covers the usual subjects. The importance of visual examination is first presented, with a follow-up on how various types of light (raking and specular) and magnification can further aid the eye. Examples showing the application of ultraviolet and infrared illumination are illustrated and briefly discussed. While x-radiography is included, the text does not specifically refer to the image illustrated, thereby making it difficult for the general reader to discern what he or she is looking at. This problem raises the question of for whom Paint and Purpose is intended. While some of the information may be beyond the general reader, the serious student of artists' techniques, the conservator, and the art historian will certainly benefit from a thorough read.
The chapter concludes with a discussion of paint sampling for pigment and cross sectional analyses. The authors present both optical and ultraviolet fluorescence microscopy as well as a sampling of advanced analytical techniques such as scanning electron microscopy (SEM) with energy dispersive x-ray analysis (EDX). For paint medium analysis, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and gas chromatography–mass spectroscopy (GC-MS) are explained. The authors close the chapter by highlighting the challenges posed by the identification of a complex mixture of aged painting materials.
Although nine authors contributed to this book, the entries are generally consistent. Each entry opens with a brief biographical sketch of the artist. A description of the painting's construction then follows, which usually begins with a discussion of the support and ends with the paint layers. Through the analyses, both technical and visual, the author recreates the painting sequence for the reader. In a clear, stepwise manner the formation of the painted image is depicted. Major pigment groups, and specifically how the artist employs them, are discussed. Throughout each entry, technical findings are related to the artist's background and training. Whenever possible, the painting technique is related to contemporary practice, written manuals, and other documentary sources. Often an anecdote is included to help the reader understand what the artist (or model) had to endure to achieve the resulting image. Stephen Hackney's entry on Sir John Everett Millais's Ophelia, describes how the model had to lie for hours in a bath of tepid water heated only by lamps below the tub.
Each entry closes with a short description of the painting's current condition as well as subsequent alterations that may have occurred due to technique or materials chosen. Each painting is well illustrated with color photographs and specific details. Paint cross sections are included to further reinforce the description of the artist's technique, although the absence of schematic drawings makes their understanding difficult for the general reader. Some entries contain radiographs and infrared reflectograms when needed to illustrate a specific point.
A shortcoming of this book is that the reader is left unsated. For example, such a wealth of information is given in Rica Jones' two entries on Reynolds that one wants even more. The editors state in the introduction, “The study of methods and materials is deficient in the wealth of comparative evidence necessary for drawing conclusions.” The reader is left thirsting for those conclusions. Unlike the Art in the Making publications that focus on a particular era or artist and the subject treated in depth so that conclusions can be expressed, Paint and Purpose is a rich compilation of individual technical analyses with little relation among them.
The addition of high-quality photographs of cross sections greatly helps in understanding the discussion of a particular artist's technique. However, some cross sections were either so complicated, or the layers being discussed were so difficult to distinguish that some type of schematic overlay would certainly help in reading the cross section.
A strength of Paint and Purpose is the inclusion of technical analyses of 11 modern and contemporary paintings. The technical literature generally available is biased toward Old Master or traditional paintings. Including works by artists such as Duncan Grant, Stanley Spencer, Ben Nicholson, and Francis Bacon greatly add to our knowledge base, as the technical literature on their work is sparse or nonexistent. As stated in the introduction, the authors chose to focus on works that were painted with traditional binding media. One can look forward to their subsequent publication on paintings in synthetic media.
Paint and Purpose certainly enhances our understanding of the working techniques and materials of these artists. However, of far greater use is the indepth investigation of an individual artist or movement that can provide the reader with comparative evidence for specific conclusions. The editors of Paint and Purpose, Stephen Hackney, Rica Jones, and Joyce Townsend—are members of the Conservation Department at the Tate Gallery. They are well known to the conservation profession and together have contributed an extensive list of publications to the field.
- Stephen D. Bonadies
- Cincinnati Art Museum
- 953 Eden Park Drive
- Cincinnati Ohio 45202-1596
GERSIL N. KAY, FIBER OPTICS IN ARCHITECTURAL LIGHTING. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1999. 298 pages, hardcover, $79.95. ISBN 0-07-034932-0.
Fiber optic lighting has been in existence long enough now to have achieved a certain legitimacy of application for architecture, specialized task lighting, and, of particular interest to the field of conservation, museum display. The title of this publication, Fiber Optics in Architectural Lighting, may be a bit misleading, as Kay explores, to varying degrees, the use of fiber optics in all of the aforementioned venues.
Individual experiences with fiber optics, especially in museums, have often fallen into one of two categories—outstanding success or dismal failure. The failures are due in part to the differences in fiber optic technology and a lack of knowledge regarding the limitations inherent in individual fiber and system choices. The decision whether to use fiber optics in an exhibit involves numerous choices of cable, manufacturer, and system, many of which are inherently fraught with the possibility of failure. Professional guidance and a little education can go a long way toward guaranteeing success.
Museum consumers need a comprehensive guide to fiber optics technology and application, difficult to achieve in such a fast-changing industry. Unfortunately, this book does not fill that need.
The author divides the text into history, design, and applications sections. Those sections of the book, which strictly address the technological aspects, may be of value to the newcomer to fiber optics, and the tables and glossary provide basic information that the reader may find useful. However, the substantive parts of the book are heavily outweighed by superfluous information. The technical data appear to have been gleaned from product literature and the science resources of a variety of fiber optic manufacturers and lighting firms, such as Schott, Flair Lighting, and others.
Kay has written and taught extensively about mechanical and electrical systems in historic structures and the information presented reflects this engineering perspective. She stresses the need for coordination between the various building trades to ensure satisfactory completion of a project—a useful point.
The author rightly enumerates the positive aspects of fiber optics. Fiber optic lighting does have special qualities that make it particularly well suited for the display of sensitive objects. Objects can be lit in an environment completely free of infrared and ultraviolet radiation. Multiple cases and objects may be illuminated from a remote light source, with the concomitant result of reduced energy and maintenance costs. With good design, object lighting can be dynamic and virtually invisible while still maintaining appropriate levels for fragile artifacts.
The author also makes a positive case for glass fiber, in preference to polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) or thermoset resin, and leaves no doubt as to her preferences. There are instances where one might choose PMMA fiber, although glass fiber would still be my cable of choice, especially when used at the exhibit case or historic house level. It is extremely flexible, allowing it to be easily routed through the interstices of exhibit cases or within historic structures. It is inert and will give the same amount of light and have the same characteristics five years from the day it is installed, and, importantly, it can withstand the elevated temperatures of the light sources (illuminators) without risk of fire or damage. Glass fiber optic systems can also be extremely simple to install, unlike the intensive, laborious process sometimes found in acrylic fiber installations.
However, in an individual exhibit, the delivery system that directs and focuses the light may be just as important as cable choice, as it gives the conservator or lighting designer ultimate control over the amount and quality of illumination falling on the object. Unfortunately, the manufacturers of glass fiber optics have not achieved the level of sophistication in lens design found in at least one manufacturer employing PMMA fiber.
There are no perfect fiber optic manufacturers or systems. The choice should depend on exhibit demands, object requirements, maintenance, and cost. The author's admonitions that “expert advice should be sought” are to the point and worth noting.
The best parts of the book are these helpful bits of advice, such as Kay's recommendation to always do mock-ups and to consider the costs of maintenance in any fiber optic installation.
A substantial part of the book deals with individual case studies of various fiber optic projects. Although there is much pertinent information presented, as well as descriptions of how fiber optics may be practically employed in lighting architecture, historic structures, and commercial and museum displays, this book should not be thought of as a step-by-step how-to manual of fiber optic applications. The examples cover a broad range of conditions and services, and one gets the feeling that Kay has mined every product catalog and elicited photographs and project descriptions from many glass fiber optic manufacturers. Kay's exact relationship to each of these projects is somewhat ambiguous, and it would be good to know her degree of involvement, whether as designer, specifier, project manager, etc.
Getting through this book may be difficult for all but the most patient reader. There is an enormous amount of filler and endless proselytizing about the need for a project coordinator. Much of what the author has to say may be reduced to a few basic themes: (1) fiber optics is an effective lighting tool if used properly, and (2) coordination of the various elements and trades is required in any construction project.
The author comments that fiber optics is just one more lighting tool to be employed by the designer. One could easily believe from the text, however, that, prior to the introduction of fiber optics, good lighting design and satisfactory task and artifact lighting had not existed, a point with which most lighting designers would disagree. Some conclusions are simply silly and overvalue the capabilities of fiber optics, as in “As many as 1000 objects in a museum could be lit individually with only 13 projectors.” While possible, this assertion reflects the general level of overstatement that suffuses the text.
Fiber optic lighting is a specialized tool, to be used wisely and from an educated perspective. It is not, at least at this stage of development, suitable for general room or architectural lighting, and it is best utilized in concert with conventional lighting systems.
The better fiber optics manufacturers continue to try to educate consumers and develop finer lighting products. Worldwide over the last decade, fiber optic lighting has continued to gain a foothold in museums for the display of prized and sensitive objects. Reputable firms specializing in fiber optics for museum display are available both in North America and in Europe, and their numbers are quickly growing. Ten years ago you may have seen representatives of one or two fiber optic companies at lighting trade shows; today there may be a dozen or more.
Kay does herself, and ultimately fiber optics, a disservice with her reliance on hyperbole and self-congratulatory statements. The intelligent reader cannot help but be apprehensive and question the broad generalizations and obvious exaggeration.
- Larry V. Bowers
- Department of Conservation
- National Park Service
- Harpers Ferry Center
- Harpers Ferry, W. Va. 25425
JUKKA JOKILEHTO, A HISTORY OF ARCHITECTURAL CONSERVATION. Oxford: Butter-worth-Heinemann, 1999. 354 pages, hardcover, £55. ISBN 07506-3793-5.
Although recently published, Jokilehto's History of Architectural Conservation has been known to several generations of ICCROM's Architectural Conservation Course participants as the author's D. Phil. thesis “A History of Architectural Conservation. The Contribution of English, French, German and Italian Thought Towards an International Approach to the Conservation of Cultural Property” since its presentation to the Institute of Advanced Architectural Studies of the University of York, U. K., in 1986. Even though the material was rearranged to present it in a slightly different manner and some new was information added, the main features and the large majority of examples included in the thesis are kept in the original order; i.e., they were written for an academic purpose, a clearly noticeable fact that becomes evident in the singular way some chapters of the book are presented. This purpose indelibly marks the style adopted throughout the text.
Jokilehto's book is definitely not to be taken lightly, in all meanings of that word, for it provides a solid foundation to the discipline. The breadth of this enterprise is given in the foreword by P. Philippot, “The modern concept of restoration … was shaped in the eighteenth century with the development of Western historical thought” but emphasizing that “the first decisive step towards a specifically European form or relation to the past occurred in Italy, when Renaissance humanism recognized in antiquity … a historic epoch of the past.” The 10 chapters in the book are organized in chronological order, though this is a difficult proposition when trying to address the history of architectural conservation in various parts and countries of Europe, where different though similar processes took place in what can be called a staggered manner. The difficulty is even greater when trying to assign a specific date to thoughts and concepts that evolved over time. Although, in many cases, the original concept can be retraced to its author, in many others, when thoughts become common knowledge, the best speaker or writer will be recognized as the author, even though his or her function was merely that of promulgating these ideas.
The book begins with an introductory chapter, “From Traditional to Modern Society,” that gives an overview of the development of the modern approach to conservation and introduces the reader to some of the examples discussed in later chapters, although this fact is not mentioned. The chapter is written in such a way as to be self-standing, and, while excellent, it does not serve to whet the appetite of the reader for more details on the chosen restoration examples.
The second chapter discusses the “Rediscovery of Antiquities” and deals mostly with the antiquities of Rome, beginning with Petrarch's visit to Rome in the early 14th century, continuing with the Renaissance and to the completion of the restoration of the Arch of Constantine in 1733. Only the last two of the seven sections of this chapter deal with countries in Europe other than Italy, starting at the time of Martin Luther's Reformation and briefly discussing its influence in Italy as well as in other countries such as Denmark, England, and Sweden.
The third chapter, “The Age of Enlightenment,” discusses mostly the first half of the 18th century, when interest in the study of antiquities and archaeology was systematically developed. These issues are addressed geographically: England, Italy, Germany, and, rather briefly, France. This chapter also includes a discussion of 17th-century approaches to paintings and sculpture restoration as well as the archaeological restorations following the excavation of buried cities such as Pompeii. Johann Winckelmann's influence on the approach to the treatment of ancient monuments, and its subsequent effect in influencing the respect for the original work, is thoroughly discussed.
Following this is a chapter devoted to “Classical Monuments,” bridging the 18th and 19th centuries. Starting with the French Revolution and the important legislation passed by the recently instituted Commission des monuments, it discusses the restorations of antiquities carried out in Rome such as that of the Colosseum and the Arch of Titus. The chapter ends with the restorations carried out on the Acropolis in Athens. This chapter in particular lacks a smooth flow: e.g., discussion of the restoration of the Colosseum is divided into two sections, separated by a section on French policy and administration as well as the restoration of the Arch of Titus. Although chronologically accurate, this approach does not facilitate ease of reading.
“The Age of Romanticism” describes the Gothic revival in England. The example of Durham Cathedral—a photograph of it graces the cover of this book—is used to illustrate this period at the end of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. While providing much information on the proposed changes and those actually introduced, there is not enough for a reader who has never visited this building. The reader is left with the feeling that either too many details are provided or too little information is given to completely grasp the details of the various restoration attempts. The reading is made more difficult since it is the author's style to focus on the people active in conservation rather than on a particular building. Therefore, the text jumps from one example to another and back, making it hard to follow. The chapter also includes the equivalent movement in Germanic countries and, to a lesser degree, in France.
The sixth chapter deals with stylistic restorations that took place mainly during the second half of the 19th century. More than half of the chapter is devoted to the activity in France and the influence of Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc in this movement. The restoration movement in England, which mainly dealt with Roman Catholic ecclesiastical buildings, is also described, and Durham Cathedral is again used as one of the examples. The chapter ends with short mentions of restorations in Austria and Italy.
The following chapter, “Conservation,” focuses on John Ruskin and the conservation movement in England, passing briefly through France, then to the Mediterranean with the restoration of the Acropolis in Athens, through Germany and ending in Italy, with particular reference to Rome.
“Theories and Concepts” is the title of the eighth chapter, which has a brief introduction to the philosophy developed in the early 20th century and in particular to the work of Martin Heidegger, who stresses the creative capacity of man in art. The fundamental work of Alois Riegl is then discussed, and its influence in shaping the development of Austrian conservation policies is analyzed. The chapter then addresses the Restauro Scientifico developed in Italy, followed by the theory of restoration developed by Cesare Brandi, and ending with several examples of restorations that serve to illustrate the restorations that do not fall within this theory.
The effect of the previously described theories in other countries is presented in the next chapter. This is the longest chapter in the book and tries to address the approaches followed all over the world. It is too large a task, and consequently results in many brief mentions, such as Mexico as representative of all of Latin America, and the United States for North America, then Turkey, Iran, India, and Japan, and then the rest of Europe. Although the chapter ends on international collaboration and mentions the Athens meeting and the Venice Charter, no reference is made to later documents that tried to adapt this charter to local situations, such as the Burra Charter prepared in Australia in 1979.
The final chapter summarizes concepts such as value, authenticity, and integrity and ends with a discussion of the difficulty encountered when trying to apply the theoretical approach in a practical manner. These difficulties are compounded by the nonequivalent “value” of words such as restauro in Italian and the restoration in English.
The last two chapters actually deal with the subject mentioned in the last part of the dissertation title “Towards an International Approach to the Conservation of Cultural Property.” Its omission from the book's title is significant, perhaps in recognition of the fact that the book really does not address this topic appropriately. Although new material was included to try to make it comprehensive it does not present a consistent view of the modern tendencies of theory. It mentions only briefly the basic points of today's divergent lines and does not provide enough elements for the reader to see the forest for the trees. On page 313, Jokilehto gives a brief glimpse of the opposing lines that have been in conflict in Italy for the past decade, namely the one favoring “pure conservation” headed by Dezzi Bardeschi, who follows Brandi's approach, and the one for “restoration” headed by Paolo Marconi. These approaches bring to date a conflict that has been latent for decades, showing opposite views for the same conservation goal. It is a pity that in a book published in 1999 these matters get only a couple of brief paragraphs and reference only the first of Marconi's books (Arte e cultural de la manutenzione dei monumenti 1984; Dal piccolo al grande restauro, 1988; and Il resturo e l'architetto, 1993), particularly since these are available only in Italian and thus not as accessible to the general international audience as is Jokilehto's work.
The amount of information provided by the author in this book—as in his dissertation—is remarkable, constituting a fundamental tool to all those willing to achieve a better understanding of both past conservation tendencies and present-day movements. The analysis of past interventions—and particularly the reasons that led to the specific solutions adopted—cannot be accomplished without the help of a sound historical and theoretical background. The same applies to understanding current theoretical approaches that are obviously based on historical background. Both can now be fully understood thanks to Jokilehto's book. For this purpose the book is outstanding and constitutes a fundamental landmark for all readers looking for an in-depth view of the general conservation concepts.
While the collection of information is remarkable, some of the comments included are sometimes peculiar. For example, in Chapter 8, page 217, when referring the work of Alois Riegl (Der Modern Denkmalkultus: Sin Wesen und Seine Entstehung, 1903), Jokilehto states, “Riegl had conceived his theory in a very abstract and condensed form and it is not necessarily easy to translate.” This statement is certainly at odds with the statement by Françoise Choay in the preface to the French translation (Le culte moderne des monuments: Son essence et sa genese) of Riegl's book: “unique in its kind since its appearance, the text is unmatched until today” and “his position as an observer is neither that of an architect … integrating the historic monument concept in the theory of their discipline, nor that of an homme de lettres who made of architectural heritage the subject of a passionate and passional crusade. In favour of this distance he could, for the first time, perform the inventory of the non-referred values and the non-explicit meanings subjacent to the concept of historic monument.” And, concluding, “Riegl's book should be a obligatory reading for all those involved in architectural conservation.” It should be remembered that one of Riegl's main achievements was to be able to express his ideas in such a concise and clear form that even 100 years later they keep all their strength and brightness. A similar statement was made by Ernst Bacher in the introduction to the book of Riegl's writings he edited (Kunstwerk oder Denkmal? Alois Riegls Schriften zur Denkmalpflege, 1995).
During the editing process the author was obliged to omit some of the original material of his dissertation. In most cases the information removed is not crucial, but in others it constitutes a loss to the readers. Such is the case of a statement by the late Raymond Lemaire, founder and former president of ICOMOS, rapporteur for the committee that prepared the Venice Charter: “The Charter was never intended as a dogma; the intention was rather to provide some basic principles which could be interpreted and even changed if time and circumstances showed the necessity for this,” an important and “politically incorrect” statement in these days when the charter has assumed a taboo position, in spite of being “used to justify all applications” (as indicated by Jokilehto on page 289).
Jokilehto's book, awaited for more than a decade by all those involved in the theory of conservation, is finally available to reach a wide audience and to provide a considerable amount of essential information that would otherwise be hard to obtain. One cannot understand modern humankind without the background knowledge of history. The same applies to conservation: history of conservation is fundamental for the correct interpretation of present-day international conservation approaches. Within this context the book is unique. No work is ever perfect and, certainly, this one by Jokilehto is no exception to this rule. Yet, if taken in the above context, it is worth every cent of its (high) price because it is a landmark in modern conservation efforts. It is definitely not an easy book to read, but it is a valuable reference text, and with use the reader will recognize that it is an almost inexhaustible source of solid information.
- Elena Charola, Ph. D.
- Lecturer, Graduate Program in Historic Preservation
- University of Pennsylvania
- Philadelphia, Pa. 19104-6311
- Prof. Fernando M. A. Henriques
- Dept. Engenharia Civil
- Universidade Nova de Lisboa
- 2825 Monte da Caparica
PETER BOWER, TURNER'S PAPERS: A STUDY OF THE MANUFACTURE, SELECTION AND USE OF HIS DRAWING PAPERS, 1787–1820. London: Tate Gallery Publications, 1990. 135 pages, softcover, $19.95. ISBN 1-85437-049-9.
PETER BOWER, TURNER'S LATER PAPERS: A STUDY OF THE MANUFACTURE, SELECTION AND USE OF HIS DRAWING PAPERS 1820–1851. London: Tate Gallery Publishing Ltd., and New Castle, Del.: Oak Knoll Press, 1999. 144 pages, softcover, $39.95. ISBN 1-85437-295-5 (Tate Gallery Publishing); ISBN 1-884718-97-3 (Oak Knoll Press).
This review of Peter Bower's books on Turner's Papers will look at some general aspects common to both books and then review them individually.
Both of these books are exhibition catalogs focusing on the supports of works of art on paper by J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851) from the Tate Gallery's Turner Bequest. The first book concerns itself with the early years of the artist's life, and the second with his mature years. Both texts approach the subject from artistic, historical, technological, and scientific points of view. Peter Bower's training in papermaking, forensic paper history, and analysis make these very informative books. He has a great wealth of knowledge of subtleties in papermaking and gives a clear and comprehensible overview of papermaking in both books to provide general background to the reader. These are specialist books that are an excellent resource for conservators, conservation students, curators, historians, and art historians, as well as being of interest and accessible to the layperson. Both include an excellent glossary of papermaking terminology as it was used in Turner's lifetime. They have indices and bibliographies and are extensively illustrated with color and black-and-white illustrations of paper, papermaking equipment and processes, Turner drawings and watercolors, note-books and sketchbooks, and some artworks on paper by other artists (included in the second book). Numerous details are illustrated, including transmitted light photographs, photographs of watermarks, photomicrographs of paper fibers by scanning electron microscopy, and close-ups showing paper texture and the interaction of paper and design material. There are numerous photographs of drawings from the Turner Bequest, some of which Bower has been able to reassemble into their original whole sheet configuration through his careful study of the paper. This reassembly has aided a number of Turner scholars in dating and identifying some of the sites depicted. Bower's texts enhance understanding of artworks on paper supports and how of treatment decisions may have an impact on the appearance of a work of art.
The descriptive catalog entries are models for writers describing paper artifacts. These catalogs are derived from a much larger project examining some 20,000 works on paper in the Turner Bequest. Bower stresses that the catalogs are not intended to be comprehensive reviews of Turner's use of paper and that some papers he has seen in collections elsewhere are not represented in the bequest.
Turner is a very good subject for such a study of paper supports for a number of reasons. The size of the bequest makes it a wonderful resource. Turner was extremely interested and generally discriminating about his paper. Finally, Turner was working in Britain at a time when watercolor was a particularly important medium. Bower quotes a key piece of advice Turner gave late in his career: “First of All, respect your paper.”The sponsors for the project are Volkswagen and the Leverhulme Trust.
The first book is divided into “Paper and Its Making,” “Watermarks,” “The Early Years, Experiments with Drawing Papers,” “The First Swiss Tour of 1802,” “Changing Concerns,” “The Italian Tour,” and “Turner and Machine-Made Paper.”
Some of Bower's findings are of particular interest to conservators and are briefly noted. In his examination of the Turner Bequest, Bower has found that Turner had a preference for quite hard, sized “writing” papers. They were relatively smooth with some surface nap. He occasionally drew and painted on printing papers.
One of the great technical innovations in the late 17th century is the Hollander beater or rag engine. The Hollander influenced the quality and quantity of pulp production dramatically. It could also break down much tougher rags without too much prior fermentation. Less fermentation could result in a whiter paper (fermentation sometimes resulted in a yellower cast). To counteract this yellowness, papermakers devised “corrected white” or “blued” paper, which masked the yellow by adding blue colorants to the pulp in the beater or the vat. Whatman first began to “blue” his paper in 1765. Bower quotes from the proceedings of a legal trial at which Whatman gave evidence about a forged will on a paper from his mill that used bluing whiteners. Whatman confirmed the dating of the paper, nullifying the will, and noted that the blueness of the paper would wear off with time (1990, pages 46–7). This testimony reinforces one's belief that it is hard to know what the original color of the paper might have been. The bluing agents included a range of materials such as light-sensitive indigo, smalt (finely ground cobalt blue glass), or even blue-pulped rags.
One observation that Bower makes is how much of the fine white papers used by Turner have yellowed. Our initial reaction is generally that this yellowing is a result of overexposure to light, but Bower points out that these papers are composed of linen fiber that would bleach with light. He proposes that these papers were originally a corrected white since Whatman did not like the idea of bleaching his white rags and used bluing instead. In the 1790s Whatman was adding indigo which has probably faded over time, allowing the yellowness of the paper to show through (1990, page 68). This speculation seems entirely plausible, given the historical references to Whatman's use of bluing. It would be interesting to know if there is any analytical information to support this idea.
In addition to skilled paper manufacturing, Whatman took great pains in the sizing and drying of his paper. (Sizing at this time was a gelatin treatment applied to the paper after manufacturing to make it water resistant and to create a surface appropriate for application of design materials.) The slow drying of the paper allowed all the tensions between the fibers inside the sheet to resolve right out to the edges of the sheet, as it shrank during drying. Quick-dried sheets leave these tensions, making the paper much less stable, so that when a wet wash of color is applied to the surface the stresses are reactivated by the water and the sheet buckles and cockles (1990, page 50). It was the hardness of the sizing and the internal stability of the paper that allowed Turner to manipulate his paper so vigorously. Bower warns us that attempts to remove distortions in paper may sometimes worsen the condition during mounting and conservation, when wetting and pressing may reactivate the internal paper tensions (1990, pages 73, 74).
Bower reminds the reader of how a lack of knowledge of the original paper color has at times resulted in overcleaning, which interferes with the integrity of the work, ignoring the artist's intentions. The artist “chose to work on a particular tone which gave very specific colour balances to his painted marks. Changing the base colour of the sheet distorts these relationships.” (1999, page 131).
In the chapter on “Experiments with Drawing Papers,” Bower discusses Turner's preoccupation with resolving various technical problems, particularly those associated with applying color in ways that would create a kind of atmosphere. Turner worked out a complex system of washing and scrubbing and lifting out color. Bower quotes a number of interesting and picturesque historical accounts of Turner's working methods. One period account of his technique states:
He stretched the paper on boards and, after plunging them into water, he dropped the colours onto the paper while it was wet making marblings and gradations throughout the work. His completing process was marvelously rapid, for he indicated his masses and incidents, took out half lights, scraped out highlights and dragged, hatched and stippled until the design was finished (1990, page 91).
Bower discusses the artist Joseph Farrington's account of Turner's method of “stopping-out,” which involved the removal of areas of dry wash by the use of a brush loaded with clean water, and then the new wet area could be blotted, removing some of the color (1990, page 71). Bower suggests the possibility of another technique: stopping-out using washes of gelatin, which would then be washed out themselves with warm water (1990, page 71). Art historians have long debated the makeup of Turner's “stop-out.” It would be interesting to know if Bower's theory is supported by historical or analytical data. (It may not be possible to separate the gelatin used as a sizing and the gelatin used in stopping-out since they will be chemically identical. In Turner's Painting Techniques, 1993, page 26, Joyce Townsend also mentions the use of gelatin stopping-out without giving her source of information.)
Bower has determined that Turner's particular preference for certain papers led him to have custom-bound sketchbooks made with specific paper that he prepared with very distinctive colored washes. Bower suggests that these toned papers relate to the deep, rich colored grounds found in Turner's oil paintings. This relationship would have been interesting to develop further. Turner's materials and techniques in both oil painting and watercolor certainly overlapped and informed each other. (This information is included in Townsend, Turner's Painting Technique, 1993, pages 37–38.) By 1851 manufactured toned and colored papers were being sold by Windsor and Newton. These tints were “printed on drawing paper in lithography produced in a variety of tints, to suit different classes of subjects … the lights are obtained by scraping off the color with a knife, by which means white touches are left where they are required” (1990, page 86).
One topic that might have been worth including is a brief overview of how Turner's watercolor technique and choice of paper types may have compared with or had an impact on other artists. (This topic is addressed in a later Tate publication by Joyce Townsend, Turner's Painting Techniques in Context, 1995.) Maybe this topic could have been put in an appendix by another author. Turner was very secretive about his working methods, but the influence of his art was profound. The subsequent volume, Turner's Later Papers, does have a chapter on “Papers Used by Other Artists”
This second book is a catalog focusing on the papers used by Turner in his drawings and watercolors during the later part of his career. The contents are broken into a catalogue section with the following categories: “Paper and Its Changes during Turner's Lifetime,” “White Papers,” “Colored Papers, Boards and Other Papers,” and “Papers Used by Other Artists” (putting Turner in context among contemporaries: John Sell Cotman, Peter De Wint, David Cox, John Constable, Samuel Palmer, Clarkson Stanfield, Samuel Laurence, and James Duffield Harding).
The two volumes of Turner's Papers are an excellent reference about papermaking during the mid-nineteenth century, which was a very significant period of British and European papermaking history. During this time the small-scale craft-based papermaking industry was beginning to evolve into a heavily industrialized factory system. This era of change and experimentation in the papermaking industry coincided with and fostered the work of a group of great British watercolorists, providing them with a broader range of papers specifically designed for their use. The volumes' focus is primarily British papermaking, although foreign-made papers used by Turner are also discussed. The author sensitizes the reader to the subtleties inherent in paper and our need for understanding them.
The author's passion for the subject matter translates itself into two great books. I highly recommend both. They are important contributions to Turner scholarship and paper history. One only wishes to have had the opportunity to see the exhibitions that they accompanied. Both volumes are well worth the investment. This writer looks forward to future publications by Peter Bower.
- Theresa Fairbanks-Harris
- Chief Conservator
- Yale Center for British Art
- P.O. Box 208280
- New Haven, Conn. 06520-8280
LAURA MANNETTI, ED., THE RESTORATION OF SCIENTIFIC INSTRUMENTS. Florence: Instituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza, 2000. 116 pages, paperback, 35,000 Italian lire. Available from LICOSA (Italy), fax: +39-055-64-1257. ISBN 88-7166-501-5.
The Restoration of Scientific Instruments, the proceedings of the workshop of the same name held in Florence, December 14–15, 1998, is what it sets out to be, a set of presentations from a conference on that subject. In that respect, it is an excellent reference, especially given that the conference is a first on the subject and that written sources of information on the subject are scarce. According to the book's preface, the conference grew out of a meeting of OSIRIS, which is a working group whose membership includes some of the most significant history of science museums in Europe, including Italy, France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdeom.
One of the main objectives of the meeting is stated to have been “to encourage direct collaboration between institutions housing ancient scientific instruments and specialist organizations in the restoration of works of art.” The two other main objectives were to establish basic “methodological principles in scientific instrument restoration” and to promote research in restoration techniques for scientific instruments.
The presenters are all from Western Europe or the United Kingdom, and, luckily for me, a language-deficient American, all the papers are in English, either originally or by translation. The papers in general are well written, with a conference flavor and with their points clearly made. Many of the papers are accompanied by clear black-and-white photography. There is a short preface, 10 conference papers in order of their presentation, and an 11th that is a summation of the round table discussion that took place at the end of the conference.
Physically, the book is a small, slim softcover volume, 17 x 24 cm and just under 1 cm thick. The matte paper and 12 point (I believe) serif font make the book easy to read, as does the sturdy, both sewn and adhered, binding.
According to the list of contributors, none of the authors currently holds the title of conservator. Many are at the director or vice-director level, and there is one scientist and one collections manager. Judging from the papers, however, most of the authors either come from a hands-on background or work closely with those who do. Thus the three areas responsible for the long-term preservation of collections—research, management, and conservation—are represented, and it is likely that readers from a wide background may be interested in this book.
Among the excellent points of the book are its clear conveyance of the status quo in scientific instrument restoration, where the workshop tradition maintains its presence, although clearly the conference was held in part to explore moving away from or supplementing that tradition. There is a good sense of the excitement that participants must have had at the conference and their engagement in the topic. Another positive aspect of the book is the variety of issues and perspectives presented, ranging from the curatorial to scientific with a healthy dose of management issues. There seems to be a general agreement on key issues such as the need for inter-disciplinary collaboration and for guidelines and standards of practice.
There are some aspects of the book that do not satisfy completely, although expectations that, as conference proceedings, it should are perhaps unfair. The book is not organized into topics, and it is not clear exactly what the authors were asked to address, although there were common themes. Perhaps the overarching theme itself expressed an internal uncertainty, asking whether scientific instrument restoration is or should be a separate field or how different is it in fact from the other conservation disciplines. Given this uncertainty, the lack of a general bibliography and definition of terms (such as “restoration” and “conservation”) are understandable but frustrating to someone looking for guidance in the field. Personally, as an objects conservator and something of a generalist, occupied with benchwork primarily but also with preventive conservation, I was struck by how familiar the grappling with the issues seemed. I feel certain that the restoration of scientific instruments is part of a larger whole and offer as proof thereof the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections Guidelines for the Care of Natural History Collections.
In what must be the keynote address, Anderson (director, British Museum) discusses main issues in the field, such as what is conservation and what is the difference between conservation and restoration—and who properly does conservation. He speaks also of the “convergence of attitudes” between the fields of conservation of art objects and conservation of science objects.
Anderson goes on to describe the role of workshops in working with scientific objects, contrasting the scientific conservation laboratory established at the British Museum in 1924 with the traditional workshops of London's Science Museum. He refers to the present situation of the existence of many trained conservators but the lack of resources with which to partake of their expertise. He introduces the issues surrounding the practice of keeping original mechanisms running and in working order and exhorts readers not to forget recent scientific instruments; many museums do not have a policy for new instruments coming into the museum collections. And finally, to the apparently oft-asked question about whether scientific instruments are different, his answer is “Yes, but not so much as they used to be.”
In his paper, Andre (professor, Universite Blaise Pascal, Clermont-Ferrand) cites the growing interest over the past 15 years in France's scientific instruments. Some scientific instruments are “being listed and protected” by Monuments Historiques, although the traditional French attitude is that instruments are tools for teachers. Andre's belief is that conservation training's focus on the arts is not strange, since technical and industrial museums were established only 20 years ago. He stresses the importance of preventive conservation as he describes various problems and interventive procedures that come with helping the general public “better understand the items exhibited.” Some of the problems arising from treatments include metal deoxidation, coatings applications and removals, weld repairs, restriking and redying, the fitting and color differences of restorations, and cannibalizing parts from instruments of the same period.
Venturoli (director, Armeria Reale, Turin) describes the history of collecting, pointing out that collections were comprised of antiquities, precious objects, scientific instruments, and arms. He says that one cannot separate the objects from their surroundings and goes on to describe restoring the building, the interiors, and the objects. He offers a methodology that applies to all types of restoration research, including the history of the materials and techniques involved as well as the object's “history of transformations.” He also points out that the aim of restoration to return to the object to its original “integrity, image, and function” is not always possible, and warns when damage will result. Finally, he discusses the possibility of preserving the object as is and using copies or other didactic devices.
Fournier (assistant director, Museum Boerhaave, Leiden) talks of the choices and policies made to provide long-term care for objects with limited resources in the Boerhaave. Every object is classified according to a curatorial category and has its place on a schedule of treatment or inspection. A seven-person in-house team manages the processing of 6,000 objects per year. Outside private contractors deal with books, prints, globes and anatomical models.
Bonsanti's (soprintendente, Opificio dele Petre Dure e Laboratori di Restauro, Florence) paper discusses conservation theory and proposes that scientific instrument restoration should be its own field.
Keene's (head of collections management, Science Museum, London) paper begins with describing the development of professional conservation and the evolution of conservation guidelines. It is a thoughtful, well written paper about scientific instruments as “instruments of history.” Her belief is that instruments are “documents from the past” and that “preserving objects as a source of evidence” has been advanced more through the “development of approaches and attitudes, and the respective roles of curators or owners and conservators, than through technical solutions.” She advocates teamwork in deciding on a treatment, with the power of veto given to the curator or conservator who advocates not doing something. Keene cites surface cleaning and disassembly/reassembly as principal risks to objects through treatments. She also sees that there are several issues particular to scientific instruments, including the lack of suitably trained conservators since the mix of skills and knowledge necessary is highly varied; the small market for these conservators; the private ownership of many instruments; and the debate over restoration of functionality.
Friess (director, Deutches Museum, Bonn) presents an amusing paper with many good points deftly made. The author describes his transport from apprentice watchmaker in a commercial shop into the museum world. At one point he says, “I gradually realized that the job of a conservator is to assist the curators. Or, rather, to serve science.” His paper gives several illustrations of cooperative approaches and a good deal of technical information. His final point is that “later generations must be given a chance to find the clocks in the same state we did, so that they can answer questions which have not yet been asked.”
Boutaine (head of the Research Department, Centre de Recherche et de Restauration des Musées de France, Paris) describes the aims of his laboratory to include examination, materials research, preventive conservation, and knowledge diffusion. He describes several nondestructive examination techniques, but unfortunately there is no discussion or example of their application to the restoration of scientific instruments.
Brenni (Consiglio Nazionale delle Richerche and Fondazione Scienza e Tecnica, Florence) presents an informative paper on the restoration of scientific instruments in Italy, covering who does it (“Mostly, everybody but professionals”), training opportunities, and a plea for collaboration in the establishment of “common scientific methodology.” He speaks of issues of particular relevance to scientific instruments. For one thing, very early instruments have always been cared for; they are rarely discovered in attics. Also, “one of the most important problems in restoring scientific instruments is related to their almost endless variety.” Instruments have very different historical, scientific, and economic values. And because the most important function of an instrument is its function, there is a great temptation to fully restore its function. Restoration in Italy is described as having been reparation or repairs related to the technical aspects of the instrument more than to its historical value. At the end, Brenni discusses what historians, technicians, and professional restorers each bring to the table, saying that “professional restorers do not have any specific knowledge in the field of technical and scientific instruments.”
Miniati (vice-director, Instituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza, Florence) provides another very good and detailed discussion on the recent efforts to preserve scientific instruments in Italy. Among other things, the lack of codified guidelines and bibliographies is discussed. The need for an informed, cautious, collegial approach is also stressed.
Bennett (director, Museum of the History of Science, Oxford University, Oxford) reports on the round table discussion that followed the presentation of papers at the conference. His report seems to reflect the varied and divergent points of view which must have surfaced while at the same time striving to find some commonality. The issue of access to resources and expertise was discussed alongside that of the degree of specificity and separateness of scientific instruments.
Bennett offers this view: “But there may be something else that makes us different, namely the culture in which our collections exist and are used.” He goes on to say, “Scientists have a different engagement with objects and instruments.” This point seems in essence to be a discussion of balancing the use and preservation of collections, coupled with an institution's having a preservation program appropriate to the resources available.
The ways in which curators and conservators interact was brought up, the issue being the responsibility for taking charge of the restoration/conservation process. It was pointed out that in other fields of conservation the guidelines have been self-generated and that, while with scientific instruments the direction may now come from the curators, this may change in future.
The round-table apparently concluded by looking toward the future. Using ICOM and various Canadian publications as links to the rest of the museum world was discussed, as well as using the website of the Scientific Instrument Commission of the International Union of the History and Philosophy of Science for information dispersal. All seemed agreed on a special need for a conference on 20th century materials and scientific instruments.
In conclusion, I found this a valuable book, if a little short on specifics. There seems to be, however, a good deal of hope for the adoption of the guidelines, bibliographies, and interdisciplinary collaboration necessary for the preservation of any type of collection, including scientific instruments, antique or modern.
- Tamsen Fuller
- 325 S. E. Alexander Ave.
- Corvallis, Oreg. 97333
BARBARA A. WOLANIN, CONSTANTINO BRUMIDI: ARTIST OF THE CAPITOL. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1998. 254 pages, softcover, $27. Available from Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20401. ISBN 052-071-01086-6.
I was asked to review this book shortly before my summer vacation, so I anxiously looked forward to its arrival. I was a little disconcerted when I unpacked it and realized that it looked more like a college textbook than a novel. At 8 1/2 x 11 in. and 254 pages, it intimidated me. To my surprise and delight, it was an easy and enjoyable read. As Dr. Wolanin states in her preface, the primary focus of the book was the historic, artistic, and technical context of murals painted by Constantino Brumidi in the U.S. Capitol during the last half of the 19th century. Her second focus was the conservation and restoration of the murals, and how these processes increased the appreciation for his endeavor. In both of these focal areas, she has done a service for anyone interested in Brumidi and the conservation work taking place in the Capitol.
Constantino Brumidi was an Italian painter who specialized in buon fresco, the artistic technique used by Michelangelo, Raphael, and other major Renaissance artists. Despite the political ramifications of hiring a foreigner for the project, Brumidi was chosen to oversee and paint most of the visual imagery in the Capitol, culminating in the fresco entitled The Apotheosis of Washington. It is Brumidi's story, his fresco techniques, his symbolism, and the politics surrounding the painting of the murals that form the basis of this book. In addition, Wolanin enlisted the contributions of well-respected art historians and conservators to add to the readers' knowledge.
The first seven chapters deal with Brumidi as an artist; including his history, the body of his work, and his fresco technique. They chronicle Brumidi's life in Italy and his rise in stature during the building and development of the Capitol and the murals. Chapter 7, which centers on the politics of the time, illustrates that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Incredible tensions between the chief architect and chief engineer, exacerbated by the politics of the Know Nothing Party and pre–Civil-War America, are succinctly reported and illustrated.
Beginning with Chapter 8, the book becomes a guidebook to all the paintings and frescoes undertaken during Brumidi's time. Each major and minor room is annotated with the history and iconography of the visual images. Chapter 9 describes the Capitol dome and the Rotunda's centerpiece, The Apotheosis of Washington. Chapter 10, Symbolism in the Rotunda, acts as Deuteronomy by going over aforementioned areas and schematically depicting many areas in the Rotunda and dome. Chapters 11 and 12 are devoted to Brumidi's final years and the completion of the decorations of the Capitol.
The second goal of the author was to depict the process of conservation and its ability to reveal nuances and the artistic intent and style of the artist. Chapters by Bernard Rabin, who is appropriately described as a dean of American conservation, with contributions by Constance Silver, depict the treatment in its entirety, illustrating previous attempts at conservation and exposing the methods of Brumidi and others. Christiana Cunningham Adams and George W. Adams describe the Brumidi Corridors, as well.
I have read another book entitled Constantino Brumidi: Michelangelo of the Capitol by Myrtle Cheney Murdock, which was the first book with color photographs. Appropriately and interestingly, Dr. Wolanin refers to this, as well as other works dealing with our national Capitol. This recognition appears to be in keeping with Wolanin's successful effort in acknowledging all of the people involved in this project.
If I have any reservations about this book, they involve its tour guide nature,. It describes every room, which after a while becomes a bit tedious. If not for this overkill, I would have read the book in one sitting. In terms of conservation, no new ground is broken, but Rabin's chapter “The Conservator's Perspective” is well written and educates and informs without simplifying.
For anyone visiting the Capitol, this book offers a thorough understanding of Brumidi, and his technique, history, and symbolism, as well as the conservation of his work. For all others, the beautiful color photographs and copious notes and appendix provide a good reference source.
Barbara Wolanin has been curator for the Architect of the Capitol since 1985. Her advanced degrees in art history and her exposure to conservation, beginning at the Intermuseum Conservation Laboratory in Oberlin and continuing in her present position, have served her well, as they have our national Capitol and Constantino Brumidi.
- Kenneth B. Katz
- Conservation and Museum Services
- 230 E. Grand River
- Detroit, Mich. 48226
VALERIE DORGE AND SHARON L. JONES, compilers, BUILDING AN EMERGENCY PLAN: A GUIDE FOR MUSEUMS AND OTHER CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS. Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 2000. 280 pages, paperback, $39.95. ISBN 0-89236-529-3.
The book's title, Building an Emergency Plan, is aptly chosen. Emergency planning is indeed a major construction project, involving laying the foundations and building from the ground up. As Valerie Dorge notes in her preface, “since the mid-1980's the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) has worked actively for the protection of cultural property and toward the development of practical solutions to technical problems faced in protecting collections and buildings in emergency situations.” Based on the Getty Museum's Emergency Planning Handbook, the experiences of colleagues around the world, and training projects of the GCI, the book is intended to provide a detailed, step-by-step guide for an institution and its staff, one that will move the users through their respective responsibilities in the planning process toward a comprehensive emergency plan. The very nature of the GCI approach acknowledges and confronts head-on the combination of avoidance and denial that has so often characterized the resistance of cultural institutions to investing the staff time and financial resources necessary to develop an emergency plan that will effectively safe-guard their collections, staff, and buildings.
December 1999 marked the end of the United Nations' International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction. While much progress has been made, the number of institutions that have made the commitment to a comprehensive plan is still far too few. I remember attending, 10 years ago or more, a conference at which a number of institutional emergency plans were outlined. Most of the presentations involved a phone list, plastic sheeting, and a stock of paper towels. The Getty presentation discussed, among other things, how to wrap and tag and store the bodies of your staff and visitors in the event that it might be days or even weeks before the coroner could get there. It was, as they say, an eye-opener. Unfortunately, too many institutions are still in the plastic sheeting–paper towel mode. It is to be hoped that this very comprehensive volume, with its step-by-step approach, will not intimidate but rather will inspire and will help to raise the standards of institutional planning.
The premise of the guide is a conviction that every institution, large or small, can and should have a well-developed emergency plan and that such a plan can reduce the number of emergencies and mitigate the effects of those that do occur. The detailed nature of the planning process is intended to allow cultural institutions to begin by identifying and assessing their risks and to structure the plan to meet their specific circumstances and needs. The answers given to the questions posed will determine the ultimate form the plan takes, though all will include four essential aspects: prevention (eliminate hazards or reduce their potential effect); preparedness (train and equip staff to handle an emergency); response (prevent injury and limit losses after the event); and recovery (prepare and train staff to carry out the process that returns operation to normal). The plan is strongly oriented toward a team-based strategy, and an emphasis is placed on the necessity of involving all of the staff at various levels. The case histories offered in the introduction include museums of varying size, type, and resources that have successfully developed emergency plans to indicate the viability of the process. And recognizing the difficulty of the process, particularly in its initial stages, the text repeatedly makes the case for the positive aspects of the team-building experience for the institution as a whole.
The book is divided into three major parts, each of which is directed to specific parts of the emergency planning team, and all of which build on the work of the others. Part 1 (Chapters 1–2), intended as a resource for the director of the institution, provides an introduction to the planning process and describes the director's responsibilities, which include setting a policy, establishing a budget, and communicating with the board of trustees. Part 2 (Chapters 3–5) is for the emergency preparedness manager (EPM), who oversees the development and implementation of the preparedness and response program. Part III (Chapters 6-9) is a resource for four essential departmental preparedness teams: safety and security; collections; buildings and maintenance; and administration and records. The almost overwhelming amount of detail is broken into bitesized bits through the inclusion in each chapter of a number of “tasks” followed by numbered “steps” necessary for the completion of that task. It is also softened by the inclusion of a series of “suggested exercises” and “questions to consider,” which are intended to assist in brainstorming and data gathering.
These tasks (for example, Collection Team Task 6: Recommend preventive measures) are followed by suggested steps that range from those easily accomplished in-house (conducting initial and then regularly scheduled “walk-throughs” of collections areas of the museum to identify and eliminate or reduce existing hazards) to the more daunting (rehousing large portions of the collections in an earthquake zone). Fortunately, prevention is the most cost-effective phase of developing an emergency plan. The time and money invested at the risk assessment and protection stage of the plan are much more productive than an equivalent amount invested in recovery operations. Staff training and regular emergency drills are also recommended and provide support for the development of both the emergency plan and the team approach. Training for staff in emergency procedures, first aid and CPR, and object handling and protection procedures can also enable the staff to supervise and maximize the use of untrained volunteers if necessary in an emergency.
A number of national organizations, including Heritage Preservation (formerly NIC), the American Institute for Conservation (AIC), the National Task Force on Emergency Response (NTFER), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), have contributed significantly to the development of emergency planning and response for cultural institutions over the last 10 years. These efforts have included Heritage Preservation's “Flood/Hurricane Information Packets,” the “Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel” (more than 64,000 copies of which are currently in circulation around the world), the NTFER's series of emergency response training workshops for instructors and responders (of which I am currently project manager), and FEMA's Resources for Recovery: Post-Disaster Aid for Cultural Institutions, which outlines FEMA's newly established funding for cultural property. Many regional cultural groups have also increased their outreach for emergency planning and response through workshops and presentations for their members. Throughout the Getty guide, users are urged to take advantage of such outside expertise in their planning process and to identify and establish a working relationship with local resources such as other cultural institutions, fire and police departments, the Red Cross and local ambulance services, local emergency preparedness organizations, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, weather bureaus, and local businesses. Such cooperation can significantly ease the planning process.
The most serious concern with regard to the effectiveness of the guide is that potential users will be overwhelmed by the undertaking, reinforcing the aforementioned institutional tendency toward avoidance and denial. The process and the expectations are much more demanding than the phone list and stock of plastic and paper towels, especially when even that level of preparedness has been regarded as a challenge and has often not been achieved. It must be acknowledged that the guide takes a global view of the nature of the problems, but relies heavily on U.S. standards and approaches, setting a high standard for organizations in this country, not to mention those in much of the rest of the world.
Nevertheless, this book deserves a place on the desk (or at the very least on the bookshelf) of everyone concerned about the preservation of cultural property. To every organization that throws up its collective hands with cries of “We can't possibly do that, we don't have the time, and we don't have the money to do our jobs now,” it can reasonably be argued that this is their job. The mission statement of virtually every museum and cultural organization around the world has at its heart the preservation of its collections. The fact that acquisition and exhibition often take precedence does not alter this fact. It is to be hoped that for every organization that succumbs to the fear of planning, there will be one that will live up to its mission statement and begin to take the necessary steps to ensure the preservation of that collection, whether from war, earthquake, hurricane, flood, fire, or simply a burst water pipe in the storage area. If that were to be the case, the GCI guide would have a profound effect on the field. If the percentage were reduced to 1 in 50, the effect would still be significant.
Valerie Dorge and Sharon L. Jones have produced a valuable resource for the field. Dorge is currently a project specialist at the GCI and was GCI training coordinator from 1992 to 1997. Previously she served as a conservator at the Canadian Conservation Institute. She is a professional associate of the AIC and a fellow of the IIC. Jones is a journalist-turned-technologist. She has received two master's degrees, one in journalism from Columbia University and one in educational technology from the San Diego State University. As a general assignment reporter, she covered a variety of emergencies (bombings, earthquakes, and fires) and learned first-hand about the devastation they cause.
- Mary Wood Lee
- P.O. Box 125
- West Cornwall, Conn. 06796
THEODORE STURGE, THE CONSERVATION OF LEATHER ARTEFACTS: CASE STUDIES FROM THE LEATHER CONSERVATION CENTRE. Northampton, England: Leather Conservation Centre, 2000. 40 pages, softcover, £5. Available from the Leather Conservation Centre, University College Campus, Boughton Green Rd., Northampton, U.K. NN2 7AN. ISBN 0-946072-06-X.
This softbound booklet is a compilation of nine case sketches on the treatment of artifacts made wholly or partially from leather. A user-friendly and well-formatted reference for initiating discussions on the complexity and breadth of leather conservation issues, this short publication represents an informal overview of a broad range of problems and current approaches to the conservation of leather artifacts at the Leather Conservation Center in Northampton, U.K. The text format is divided into two parts. The first section describes a condensed version of nine different conservation treatments that have been undertaken by the author, Theodore Sturge. Complementing the individual case sketches, the booklet's second part is composed of two annotated appendices that provide information about the materials used in the treatments and a glossary of technical terms. The materials and glossary appendices are clearly referenced by the author throughout the series of case studies, in order not to duplicate the explanation of information in multiple cases. This referencing approach allows the author to confine each treatment case to two succinct pages of text. The appendices are followed by a list of English suppliers and sources for further readings on related material. They provide a useful and thoughtful reference tool for an international audience.
The nine informally written case studies illustrate a range of compelling conservation problems and their individual solutions in concise overviews of the object's condition, along with treatment procedures and materials. As interesting and varied as the treatments is the range of functional objects that have been chosen to illustrate the conservation challenges. The size, construction techniques, and accessibility to areas of damage in each case sketch often further challenge the treatment proposal. The objects range from saddles to club chairs, a car and a suitcase, a fire bucket and an ecclesiastical garment and a gilt leather wall covering. Each treatment is outlined in a one-or two-page format enhanced with color photographs and captions that illustrate before-and-after treatment pictures as well as repair and compensation methodology not commonly practiced. The graphic and text layout of each case treatment is consistent throughout the publication and aids the reader in assimilating such a broad range of information.
Each case study starts with a short description of the object and its function, followed by a brief sketch of condition. The author then touches on the identified conservation problems and how the condition relates to the proposed treatment, and, if appropriate to the proposed treatment, explains the probable cause of damage or disfigurement. A synopsis of treatment, a list of the materials used, and a description of how the treatment was undertaken form the third section of each case study. Discussion of compensation for loss, finishes, and display mounts round out the treatment section of some of the case studies.
The variety of functional objects that the author has chosen exposes the reader to a distinctive breadth of conservation materials, philosophical concerns, and treatment procedures. For instance, in the first case study, he introduces the reader to his solutions to red rot, the problems of weakening of leather from this form of deterioration, and the damages commonly associated with it. The case study briefly describes the treatment of red rot with aluminium alkoxide and the compensation of areas of loss with molded leather.
The reader then learns of a completely different physical and chemical conservation issue. A gilt and embossed polychromed leather chasuble, the subject of the second case study, illustrates approaches to reducing distortions and making repairs in heat-damaged leather. This treatment also touches on compensation for loss for an unusual surface that affords high flexibility and the preparation of a supporting display mount.
The next case study focuses on the well-used equestrian accoutrements of a jockey—his saddle and boots—that had been stored in an attic space for years. Distortions and heavy soiling were compounded by water damage. Functional heavy use and poor storage conditions further contributed to tears in the saddle, weak points on the stitching, and exposure of the interior saddle form. In this case study the reader learns about reshaping the hard leather with the aid of semipermeable membranes and humidity. Repairs to the leather were accomplished with molded leather and a synthetic nonwoven textile, followed by dressing.
From treating this smooth calf leather object, the author's next study describes his solutions for an embossed vegetable-tanned calfskin suitcase that imitates crocodile. He shares how he approached the rejoining of the structural boards of the suitcase, repaired the split edges of skin, and compensated for the loss of leather around the edges with new leather.
With his seemingly endless selection of interesting objects from which to choose, the author then explains his treatment solutions for the python-skin upholstered wooden chair. The identified conservation problems focused on reattaching loose scales and the problems of cleaning. He also offers a solution to inserting and toning new python skins in the areas of loss around the edges of the chair.
The sixth case study focuses on the conservation problems of a 1906 Renault Landaulette. The worn and torn back upholstery of the backrest and arms had previously been repaired with self-adhesive carpet and electrical tape. The treatment decision was to work in situ, removing the tape with heat and solvents. Several methods to repair the splits in the leather were considered, with the repair material of choice being colored Reemay impregnated with Beva 371. Using a tacking iron, solid Beva was utilized to perfect and texture small cracks. A commercial surface finish was chosen for a final coating of the leather.
The next case study concerns the treatment of a soiled fire bucket. In addition to the soiling, the bucket had a broken rim with approximately one-third of the leather lost and the exposed wooden lap joint sprung. The handle was also missing. The author describes his solutions to consolidating the paint and rebuilding missing areas along the rim with leather and solid Beva 371, as well as replacing the handle and attaching loops.
The next case study describes the author's use of Reemay to repair breaks in gilt leather wall coverings where access to the back is inaccessible. This technique takes the novel approach of aligning curled edges and applying pressure while drying to reduce the distortions. The technique is conveniently illustrated step by step with captioned photographs.
The final case study illustrates the repairs to a large tear in a club chair using leather and a solvent-reactivated adhesive.
The second part of the publication is a series of supporting annotated appendices that are referenced in all the case sketches. These were included to avoid unnecessary repetition of technical details. The first appendix discusses the materials used in the individual cases and are marked in the case text with (m). Each material is listed alphabetically and has an accompanying paragraph summarizing the physical and chemical characteristics that relate to the material in general and its specific application and compatibilities with leather. While international counterparts are not identified, there is ample generic information for a reader outside of England to find a suitable comparable product or initiate inquiries via the Internet. A complementary appendix, a glossary of terms, is similarly formatted and provides technical background information on terms in the case texts with which the reader may be unfamiliar. They include the terms used to label specific structural or design parts of the objects in the case studies as well as some leather terms and manufacturing procedures and chemicals. Complementing the two annotated appendices is a page of resources for further reading that is a thorough first step for those seeking more professional support or academic information. Acknowledgments to the many people and organizations that supported the author's work follows. An index is provided for readers seeking specific information within the body of the publication.
The publication is a useful resource and a captivating compilation of interesting conservation projects that reflect the conservation trends in the 1990s as undertaken by a laboratory that focuses on leather conservation issues. The informal presentation of each case study is further enhanced by a user friendly and visually appealing format. The table of contents is annotated to note the highlights of each treatment study, making it easy for the reader to reference a page for specific treatments or materials. In addition, the physical layout of the text allows convenient access to the individual case studies. The reader opens the booklet so that the entire case study is fully in view on either one or two pages, requiring no page turning. After reading the case studies, the reader will feel as though he or she is being given an afternoon's tour of the laboratory and the projects being undertaken. The drawback is that the reader with leather conservation experience cannot ask further questions for clarification of treatment decisions or pursue philosophical discussions that beg to be initiated. Because the publication is so engagingly constructed, the information is also at risk of being misunderstood or misapplied by readers not fully versed in leather conservation issues. The format is at risk of inviting to take a naïve approach to treatment.
The author is sensitive, however, to the limitations of the case studies format. He clearly states in the introduction that his audience is primarily experienced professional conservators and that his approach to treatment is based on his personal experience and understanding of the complex issues surrounding leather artifacts and long-term preservation goals. Underscoring that this publication is not meant to be a comprehensive treatise on leather conservation, he places conditions on the reader to understand his intent and the limitations of the publication. He qualifies the reader's expectations by saying that no treatment case is meant to be the only possible method but rather to provide points for discussion and guidance for colleagues faced with similar work. His aim is simply to introduce a broad and interesting range of techniques in the context of the object's condition and needs, and some “solutions that may be novel in their approach.” Recognizing that the publication may be of use to “others [who] may find it helpful as a guide to what is possible,” he reiterates the need for professional advice and recommends that treatments be carried out by qualified conservators to reduce the risk of irreversible damage or the potential need for costly additional work.
The booklet is an opportune reference tool for conservators who routinely undertake the treatment of leather and for those seasoned conservators in allied fields who would like an introduction to a variety of leather treatments. To the author's credit, the booklet has brought together under a single cover a range of information that has been scattered or not readily available to the international audience. It will be an especially useful starting reference for seasoned conservators to use when introducing new professionals to the complexities of leather conservation. Under conditions where it will be used to discuss rather than define treatment, it successfully meets the author's goal to promote discussion on the more commonly used techniques and offer guidance to others faced with similar work. The caveat is that the author has distilled a great breadth of knowledge about adhesives, dressings, and fill materials and their compatibilities with different kinds of leather into condensed explanations that assume the reader's sensitivity to the underlying fine points of treatment decision making. As a treatment resource rather than a discussion resource, it relies upon the audiences having a broad depth of knowledge equal to the author's and being able to accurately assimilate the case studies within a broader context of their own experience, object conditions, treatment choices, and philosophy for compensation of loss.
Theodore Sturge has been senior conservator at the Leather Conservation Centre since 1995. He was previously head of conservation for the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry and, prior to that, assistant keeper, Antiquities Conservation for the Leicestershire Museum Service. A Fellow of the International Institute for Conservation, he is a graduate of the Institute of Archaeology, London program.
- Alexandra O'Donnell
- ArtCare Resources
- 142 Mill St.
- Newport, R.I. 02840
MARY-LOU E. FLORIAN, HERITAGE EATERS: INSECTS & FUNGI IN HERITAGE COLLECTIONS. London: James & James (Science Publishers), 1997. 164 pages, softcover, $40. 1-873936-49-4
As an entomologist and technical expert specializing in the areas of Integrated Pest Management site inspections and program development for museums, historic houses, collections, libraries, and archives, I was asked to review Heritage Eaters for this journal. I have spent the last 25 years of my professional career prowling through hundreds of crawl spaces and basements, behind the scenes of every imaginable type of museum, historic house, and storage building, and onto their rooftops in order to investigate actual and potential pest problems of stored and displayed cultural collections. These field experiences have given me a thorough understanding of the pest problems of heritage materials and options for control and prevention.
I am honored to be asked to review Mary-Lou Florian's excellent book, and I encourage the entire museum community to read it.
Mary-Lou E. Florian has spent her outstanding career as a conservation scientist with a succession of Canadian institutions, beginning in the early 1960s as a Biologist with the National Gallery of Canada. In the mid-1970s, she investigated museum environments and collection deterioration as a senior conservation scientist for the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa. In 1978, she accepted the position of conservation scientist at the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, where, in 1991, she retired as the chief of conservation services. It was during this period that she pioneered the process of freezing infested materials as a logical, nonchemical means of disinfesting of collections. Florian is now a research associate emerita for this major museum complex and continues actively pursuing her love of protecting heritage materials from biological destruction. Among her many awards: she is an honorary member of AIC and received the 125th Commemorative Medal from the governor generals of Canada for helping to save heritage collections.
With Heritage Eaters, Mary-Lou Florian has compiled a lifetime of work in two primary areas of interest, those insects that pose a threat to heritage collections and the effects of fungi on such collections. The reader must appreciate that Florian's work deals primarily with the large, urban institutional setting where there is at least some degree of recognition for the need and development of an Integrated Insect Pest Control (IIPC) program to control existing pest problems and prevent future uprisings. The focus of this book, therefore, is not the raccoon problem in the attic of a historic house. In fact, no four-legged pests, not even mice, are discussed. Florian's strengths are insects and fungi, and therefore the book is specifically aimed at these two areas of her expertise. And what strengths they are. Every museum professional with concerns about biodeterioration of collections should read this book thoroughly and have it readily available for reference.
I found Heritage Eaters very readable, extremely well researched, and well written. It should be in the pest prevention arsenal of every museum in the world. A few minor technical errors should not detract from this important contribution to IIPC.
The first three chapters of the book—the introduction; “Environmental Parameters: Their Relevance in Fungal and Insect Activity”; and “Classification of Common Insect Heritage Eaters”—get the reader set for more details of the insect and fungal pests common to all heritage collections. Florian's emphasis is rightly placed on the importance of prevention. Chapter 4, “Exoskeleton and Moulting,” is excellent, especially section 4.6 about dehydration and the waxy cuticle of insects or lack thereof. Chapter 5, “The Tracheal System,” lets the reader know how insects breathe and the possible effects of fumigants and anoxic treatments.
In chapter 6, “The Insect Egg,” Florian's statements at the end of section 6.6 concerning the oriental cockroach, Blatta orientalis, are incorrect. She states, “An ootheca, an egg case in which fertilized eggs develop, is carried by the female until the young are ready to hatch. The mother tends the young nymphs for several days in their nursery.” Mallis's The Handbook of Pest Control (1990), which is considered a long-standing reference text, states, “The egg capsule is carried from 12 hours to five days and then deposited in some warm sheltered spot where food is readily available. In this species, the female cockroach gives no assistance to her newly born young. At room temperature, the incubation period was from 42 to 81 days, with an average of 60 days.”The oriental cockroach female drops her egg capsule where it remains for well over a month before the embryos mature and emerge as nymphal cockroaches.
Chapter 7, “The Larva: The Eating Machine,” chapter 8, “The Pupa,” and chapter 9, “Nymphs and Their Adults: Environmental Indicator Species” all contain excellent photographs, drawings, illustrations and descriptions. If for no other reason, the book should be purchased for these chapters alone.
In section 9.3.1 of chapter 9, Florian leads the reader to believe that all female cockroaches carry their egg capsule until the nymphs are ready to emerge. This is generally true with the German cockroach, Blatella germanica, but it is not the case with most other cockroach species. Most drop or glue their egg capsule in areas favorable to the nymphs, and a period of days or months elapses before the embryos are fully developed and emerge en masse from this capsule. In section 9.3.2, the homemade jar trap for trapping cockroaches (Olkowski et al. 1991) will work for those species with sticky pads on their feet that would enable them to climb up the outside of a glass jar. However, some cockroaches, e.g., Blatta orientalis, lack these sticky pads, and therefore such traps would not be effective.
Chapter 10, “The Adult: Trapping and Monitoring,” is an excellent treatise detailing light traps, the use of windows as “light traps,” pheromone traps, and oviposition traps. What is unfortunately absent is a section detailing the general use of common sticky traps, also known as glueboards. Most institutions and particularly the historic house setting do not have the manpower or time to institute a lightor pheromone-trapping program, but they certainly can install a standard glueboard-trapping program. Instructions on how to set up such a monitoring and trapping program would have been a valuable addition to the book.
Chapter 11, “The Insect Infestation: Finding, Bagging, Eradicating and Clean-up,” is very straight-forward and practical, with a good dose of common sense. Chapter 12, “Insect Eradication Methods,” is Florian's strongest chapter. Her pioneering research and intensive literature review in these areas have led the entire museum community into adopting commonsense approaches to eradicating infestations once they are discovered in a collection. The section on freezing is excellent. The review of other eradication techniques, such as heating and anoxic treatments, is well researched. Florian rightly cautions about heating heritage materials for the purposes of eradication for fear of causing even more damage to the infested heritage materials.
Chapter 13, “Integrated Insect Pest Control (IIPC) Programme,” is a commonsense approach to inspection, isolation of infestation, eradication, maintenance, cleaning protocols, and monitoring a large institution housing heritage materials for insect pests.
Chapters 14-20 detail fungi commonly found on and in heritage materials and buildings. The remainder of the book is devoted to various topics concerning the identification, damage, control, and prevention of fungi. These chapters give the reader a very detailed picture of these important problems, and they are very well researched and written. As an IPM consultant and lecturer on the topic of mold in collections and buildings, I found these portions of the book to be very informative and helpful. One glaring error, however, which was probably a mistake on the part of the publisher and not the author, is the use of the abbreviation “mm” (millimeters) instead of µm (microns) when talking about the size of individual fungal spores. This mistake is found in some of the tables as well as the text.
After reading and rereading this book, and looking at it from the standpoint of one who has spent his career working in overlapping areas of expertise, I can only tip my hat to Mary-Lou Florian for a job well done. I came away with much more understanding of the mechanics of insect pest infestation and the importance of form and function when attempting to use various eradication methods for controlling insects. I also welcomed this text for clarification of some of the more difficult aspects of how fungi affect heritage collections and the structures housing them.
- Thomas A. Parker, Ph.D.
- Pest Control Services
- 14 E. Stratford Ave.
- Lansdowne, Pa. 19050
MARIANNE WEBB, LACQUER: TECHNOLOGY AND CONSERVATION: A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO THE TECHNOLOGY AND CONSERVATION OF ASIAN AND EUROPEAN LACQUER. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2000. 182 pages, hardcover, $72. ISBN 0-7506-4412-5.
At long last a book has been written that looks at the range of materials, technologies, and treatments available for both Asian lacquer and Western japanned objects. Marianne Webb has masterfully tackled the complicated and controversial subject of the preservation of lacquer. The book is divided into two broad sections, Asian lacquer and European japanning. She introduces the subject with a clear explanation of the definitions of lacquer and why the term is so often confused and misunderstood. As the author points out, the term “lacquer” is currently used to describe any glossy coating made from natural or synthetic resins. Lacquer is commonly thought to be the same material on both Asian and European (Western) objects. While all traditional lacquer is made from plant resins or insect residues, the species vary widely, causing the fabrication, deterioration, and treatment to be vastly different. The author delves into details of the differences between Eastern and Western treatment philosophies, concentrating on lacquer deterioration and conservation rather than its history and decorative techniques.
The author begins by defining Asian lacquer, its origins, sources, chemical constituents, toxicity, and identification. Next she discusses the various substrates, grounds, finishes, and decorative techniques. To complete this section, she describes the deterioration and conservation methods used for Asian lacquer. Urushi, the Japanese name for Asian lacquer, is produced from the sap of various species of the Rhus (now Toxicodendron radicans) and Melanorrhoea trees and is used throughout Asia. Most of the resins are toxic, causing rashes on humans, and when they harden they become insoluble, producing a tough, impervious film. They remain insoluble unless they are badly deteriorated by extreme light exposure. This aspect of urushi has led to different approaches to conservation treatments between Asian and Western conservators.
The second half of the book covers European lacquer with the same details of definition, fabrication techniques, deterioration problems, conservation issues, and methods being discussed. European lacquer is also called japanning because it was initially developed to imitate Japanese lacquer in the early 18th century. Since none of the Asian lacquer-producing trees grew in Europe, other resins were employed. The author illustrates and describes these resins which include shellac, copal, gum elemi, mastic, and sandarac. Most of these resins remain soluble and are not as durable as urushi. While the appearance of these resins is similar to urushi, the materials and techniques are very different.
The descriptions of problems that all these organic coatings develop are thorough and well illustrated with useful photographic details of deterioration such as fingerprints, water damage, flaking, and light damage. The author also provides good cautionary notes on treatments where problems may develop. The book ends with a short glossary, a small bibliography, and an Asian time line.
A fundamental disagreement exists among Eastern and Western conservators about how to treat Asian lacquered objects. The major difference is between the traditional, irreversible technique of repair using urushi and the Western method of using soluble synthetic or natural resins. The author provides a balanced view of these disagreements. In the past neither side compromised, but now both have begun to influence one another. Sharing of information has led some Western conservators to use urushi on Asian objects and some Asian conservators to seek reversibility in treatments. It is important to continue weighing these decisions since no consolidation is really completely reversible. The author discusses the pros and cons of using urushi or synthetic resins as consolidants, leaving the choice to the reader.
This book is a welcome addition to the conservation library, but it falls short in a few areas. Missing from this volume are microscopic cross sections of urushi objects, which would aid our understanding of the preservation problems and be useful for comparison with the cross sections that are provided for the japanned objects. Some important lacquer conservation problems are not addressed. These include the stabilization of waterlogged Asian lacquer, the difficulties of flattening thick lacquer layers, and the treatment of lacquer on corroded metal, a particularly intractable problem with Asian armor.
The author provides good details on specific solutions. It would have been more instructive to include a summary of methods that did not work and should be avoided. She discusses particular conservation materials without enough emphasis on the reasons behind her choices and why they work. Guidelines on general adhesive and consolidant selection and use would have been more helpful than speaking of specific resins. She covers the various resins used for japanning in excellent detail, but I would like to have seen more information on the various Asian resins. She concentrates on the materials and techniques of Japanese lacquer but rarely discusses lacquers produced in China, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, or the Ryukyu Islands. Likewise the glossary concentrates on Japanese vocabulary with only a few Burmese, Korean, and Vietnamese terms.
For an important reference book, a comprehensive bibliography at the back would be more useful than the references at the end of each chapter, particularly since many of the chapter references cover broader subjects. The references include only the Western literature, with few Asian references provided. The inclusion of references to resin chemistry would be useful for the reader who wants to pursue the subject further. A final section providing suggestions for future investigation and the direction in which the author sees the lacquer specialty proceeding would have strengthened the book.
There are few books on the subject of the technology and conservation of lacquer. The only volumes on conservation issues are found in a few conference symposia and in individual papers scattered among obscure journals. This book is a guide to the technology and conservation of Asian and Western lacquer for the professional conservator and student. It will assist both the beginner and the experienced conservator in making informed decisions on identification and treatment of lacquer and japanned objects. This is an enormous amount of material to cover in one volume, but the author brings clear definition to the confusing media. She assesses current conservation practices and controversial issues as to whether Asian lacquer should be restored in the traditional Asian manner using nonreversible materials, or with Western methods that are theoretically reversible. Finally, in this book and in recent workshops we are beginning to see some compromises, some crossover between methods. These are all leading to a better understanding of materials and methods and, it is hoped, to better preservation of a difficult material.
Marianne Webb has been the decorative arts conservator at the Royal Ontario Museum for over 18 years. She has taught lacquer conservation courses at the Campbell Center and at occasional workshops. Until last year she was the coordinator of the ICOM Committee for the Conservation Working Group on Lacquer.
- Donna Strahan
- Head of Conservation
- Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
- Golden Gate Park
- San Francisco, Calif. 94118
NANCY GOYNE EVANS, AMERICAN WINDSOR CHAIRS. New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1996. 744 pages, hardcover, $125. Available from Hudson Hills Books, 230 Fifth Ave., Suite 1308, NewYork, N.Y. 10001-7704. ISBN 1-55595-112-0.
JOHN KASSAY, THE BOOK OF AMERICAN WINDSOR FURNITURE, STYLES AND TECHNOLOGIES. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1998. 195 pages, hardcover, $40. Available from the University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, Mass. 01004. ISBN 1-55849-137-6.
These two books provide an excellent reference set for the serious student of furniture. Kassay's book is a treatment of the subject from the furniture maker's perspective, while Evans's is more a historian's approach. While Kassay's views are personal insights into the forms, Evans's approach is art-historical review, with greater concern for cultural context. Between the two, a terrific foundation is laid for the serious study of the Windsor form.
Evans's book is a joint venture of the publisher in association with the Winterthur Museum and matches the same high quality expected from that institution. The sheer size of Evans's book (at nearly 750 pages) suggests the depth and completeness of her work. For some time, Evans has been a preeminent scholar of the Windsor form. This book is in many ways a compilation of a number of her previous writings and also a fresh, comprehensive treatment of the subject. She organizes the book in two parts: historical background and regional stylistic studies. The regional studies fill nearly 700 pages.
Evans's Part 1, “Background History and Overview” is an appropriately brief section and provides only the smallest mention of the style beyond English antecedents. In fact, the “American style” and the “English style” are one and the same. Of course, we need only look as far as our colonial origins to find the rationale for this. But because of the historical importance, Evans mentions Egyptian and later Renaissance models to show the style's ubiquitous nature (undoubtedly descended from the three-legged stool). She next looks at the American industrial production of Windsors, which began in earnest in the mid-18th century. As Evans points out, the production of the chairs in America began soon after their importation from London and other English style centers. The early industrial production was in reality not much more than large-scale shop-work. She shows that the chairmakers were producing large quantities of components and even subcontracting. But, in most senses of the term, the chair was still made by hand, often in one-man shops. And soon enough, as she explains in the next section, a true industry–—though not true mass-production—grows up around Windsor chair making.
Part 2, “Regional Studies: Products and Producers” concentrates on the study of the social and economic forces that shaped regional variations in the style and business of chair making in America. Evans's study is one of form, and the details of materials and methods are wisely subordinated. While readers such as conservators and artisans often crave these insights, Evans has given them scant mention. In fact, in the foreword, she states that wood is identified only “by eye” except where noted. She could have said the same for the paint, as no mention of the support for her identification can be found. In her defense, none is really necessary, since we should assume terms such as “verdigris” and “Prussian blue” describe the effect, not the substance, of the paint. She does allude to the sources of the paint and gives contemporary accounts of materials available, so the reader can continue the study from there. Perhaps inclusion in the bibliography of Hezekiah Reynolds's 1812 Directions for Ship and House Painting, or even Theodore Penn's 1966 thesis Protective and Decorative Finishes, 1750–1850 would have been helpful.
For the regional studies part of her book, Evans identifies five regions: Pennsylvania; the three states of Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey; New York State; the New England states; and, in a final chapter, the South, the Midwest, and British Canada. As she proposes in the preface and acknowledgments:
Regional studies … provide insights on craft structure; pattern evolution; the roles of geography, technology, and territorial expansion in craft diffusion; the widespread appeal of the Windsor; and its perfect suitability as a major commercial product.
While in many cases she succeeds in this approach, she also notes where it falls short. An example she gives is in the border region of southern Connecticut and Rhode Island, which essentially shared a common history and economy. There are several other instances, since the regional approach can be a bit too limiting. However, regional grouping works well in most of the instances, especially where geographic features truly separate them. I can imagine that one of the more daunting tasks facing the author was the sequential organization of the material, since the time period is quite short and the influences are so varied. While regionalism is important, Evans also points out the extent of trade in this furniture. One eye-opener was the early examples of a global economy, with seller's agents not only reaching the Caribbean regularly but selling their wares around South America to the Pacific coast. It should give one pause when considering that fine examples of Connecticut chairs may right now be in Lima, Peru, as well as Lima, Ohio.
The book concludes with a summary, a list of many of the known makers (1745–1850), a glossary, a bibliography, and an index. Of these features, researchers especially will appreciate the list of makers and the bibliography. This last fits well with Evans's thorough and extensive endnotes for each chapter.
The book design, illustration, and printing merit mention as well. The text is quite readable (at this number of pages, it needs to be!), and the printing on alkaline paper is excellent. Virtually all photographs are black and white, but this choice is not a deficiency. This book is mainly about furniture form and not so much about surface detail. These hundreds of photographs are an excellent resource in themselves. One small criticism remains regarding photographs. There are 24 colorplates, grouped before the text. While they are generally of very high quality and a welcome addition, their placement limits their usefulness. Given the otherwise high quality and attention to detail in the book design, this is a flaw which stands out and seems a bow to production cost. Placement of the colorplates within the text would have been much preferred by all involved, no doubt.
John Kassay's book, by comparison, takes a much more individual approach to the Windsor form. His is an analysis of form and function, and little attention is paid to the cultural forces influencing design and consumption patterns. He is described on the book jacket as a draftsman, furniture maker, and photographer. His book is less an analytical one and more an homage to the physical form. We never learn why the objects were chosen for inclusion, but that may not be the point. The reader will come to understand that the insights are his, based upon his frame of reference rather than a typical scholarly approach, which does not diminish the effort in the least. Kassay's opinions are front and center, while Evans's approach is nearly anonymous due to the classical methods she uses. Both styles are appropriate and successful.
After a brief historical introduction, Kassay's book launches into a look at 17 types of Windsor furniture. The divisions are somewhat arbitrary; for example: comb-back, low-back, fan-back, sack-back, bow-back, etc. However, without these groups, there would be no break between the descriptions of the nearly 200 objects. Each is handled in the same dry registrarial way we are accustomed to for catalog entries: name, region, date, maker, materials, etc.
However, once these introductions are made, we gain from Kassay's personal insights into the form and construction of each object. They belong to branches of the Windsor family, but each is unique. Kassay knows each and their special strengths and weaknesses. In this way, his criticism gives a better understanding of this important furniture form and its physical structure.
The real bonus in the book is Kassay's own measured drawings. Like the best illustrations, they convey meaning beyond words and bear repeated examination. For the serious student, construction details become quite clear in a way beyond most photographs. The serious furniture maker can no doubt build a replica of any of the illustrated objects. There is even a parts list—each component is identified and its dimension given. For each of his 17 types, Kassay includes one—and sometimes several—archetypes in measured drawing. All the important information from a detailed examination is contained in the drawings. Splay angles, sectional drawings through the seats, curvature of the arms— all are rendered in scaled drawings. Each is a work of the draftsman's art and could be improved only by being several times the size.
Taken as a set, these two books work well together. Where one is weak, the other balances with strength. Kassay acknowledges Evans's valuable scholarship and thanks Windsor makers past and present. Evans's sees how this form fits into the cultural setting of the past, and takes a dispassionate view in her analysis. Kassay sees a still vibrant art form and nearly reveres the past achievements, enshrined in the draftsman's art.
Conservators would, I think, see the value in both approaches. For the appreciation and preservation of Windsor furniture, for those new and familiar with them, these books form a good addition to the reference library.
- Mel Wachowiak
- Smithsonian Institution
- Washington, D.C. 20560