JAIC 2002, Volume 41, Number 1, Article 3 (pp. 21 to 42)
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Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 2002, Volume 41, Number 1, Article 3 (pp. 21 to 42)

OLD MASTER RECIPES IN THE 1920s, 1930s, AND 1940s: CURRY, MARSH, DOERNER, AND MAROGER

LANCE MAYER, & GAY MYERS



5 DIVERGING PATHS OF MARSH AND CURRY

Marsh kept his close association with Maroger through the latter part of the 1940s and even into the 1950s. Marsh was one of 14 painters who showed their work at the exhibition Paintings in the Maroger Medium (1947, Lyman Allyn Museum). Marsh never gave up trying to paint like Rubens; in one notebook is a sheet headed “Rubens” and dated 1951, where he describes going over a dry “jelly” layer with “1–10 wax oil,” with black oil added. A page from Marsh's papers dated 1952 was clearly written by Maroger at a time when he was working with Marsh in Mystic, Connecticut. Maroger was apparently attempting to refine the “Rubens gelée” by adding a 2:1 mixture of stand oil and Venice turpentine. Recipes in Marsh's notebooks during the last two years of his life (1953–54) show that he was still experimenting, modifying, and using many different combinations of media, with “Rubens medium” or simply “jelly R” appearing frequently (Marsh 1951; Maroger 1952; Marsh 1953, 1954).

It should be noted that Curry was not the only painter who was skeptical of Maroger's theories during this period. As early as December 1942, Frederick Taubes had responded to Maroger's first article in The Magazine of Art with a highly critical article in the same journal (Taubes 1942). And after Maroger's book appeared in 1948, it received a scathing review from Ralph Mayer (Mayer 1949).

Even during the period of Curry's infatuation with the Maroger media, he had been experimenting with other materials. In May 1941, Curry wrote that he was trying “a new method of oils or tempera and watercolor” for book illustrations (Curry 1941b). In October of this same year he ordered a new kind of tempera paint from Weber. The exact medium is not identified, but in a letter to Curry, F. W. Weber explained that the new paints differed from egg-emulsion tempera in that “upon drying [they] do not become absolutely insoluble in water as do the egg Tempera” (Weber 1941).

By 1943, it is clear that Curry's flirtation with Maroger was over. He canceled an order for gum arabic in that year (Curry 1943a), and he never mentioned Maroger in his correspondence again. After having not received a satisfactory response the previous year when he had asked Marsh for written sources that would corroborate Maroger's theories about the methods of Rubens, in 1943 Curry wrote to Mrs. Bruce Moore to inquire about references to Rubens's and Van Dyck's techniques in the de Mayerne manuscript (Curry 1943b). From 1943 until his death in 1946, Curry continued to correspond with a variety of experts, including Henry Levison of Permanent Pigments and Frederic Taubes as well as F. W. Weber. Toward the end of his life, Curry seems to have become most interested in copal as a painting medium, and he also ordered from Weber a material called “Durvar 39,” which Weber had designed to be incorporated into painting media as a synthetic substitute for copal (Curry 1944; Taubes 1944; F. Weber Co. 1945; Weber 1945; Curry 1945b; Curry 1946; Taubes 1946).


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