AMERICAN IMPRESSIONISM, MATTENESS, AND VARNISHING
LANCE MAYER, & GAY MYERS
1. American painters may have been following the lead of the French in some of these experiments with wax. A New York newspaper reported in 1891, “The members of the French Society of Artists are pondering upon a proposed abandonment of oil colors and brushes in favor of some more permanent mediums,” and that a committee was investigating encaustic among other techniques (quoted in Abendschein 1909, 2; see also Rice 1999 on wax painting in 19th-century France and on the use of wax by the American John La Farge [1836–1910] beginning in the 1860s).
2. For example, John Neagle wrote ca. 1839: “Perhaps two or three very thin coats of varnish may prove safer than one thick one” (Neagle 1839 and later, 3; the entry is from the very beginning of the book and probably dates from very close to 1839). An American Artist [Osborn] (1845 [and later editions up to 1883], 286) said:“Put the couch on thin; for you can always add another lay, when the first is thoroughly dry.” And Rembrandt Peale (xxx–xxxx) wrote:“It is best to give a picture two coats of [varnish], letting the first be well dry—rather than one thick one” (Peale ca. 1849–52, 95).
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The authors would like to thank Edward Shein of American Art Search, Thomas Barwick, John Driscoll of Babcock Galleries, John Hagan, and Frederick W. Lapham III. We would also like to thank Jack Becker, formerly of the Florence Griswold Museum and now at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens and Museum of Art, Thomas J. Branchick of the Williamstown Art Conservation Center, Bruce Chambers, Susan Hobbs, Barbara J. MacAdam of the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, and Dorothy Mahon of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
LANCE MAYER and GAY MYERS are both graduates of the conservation training program at the Intermuseum Laboratory in Oberlin, Ohio. Since 1981 they have been in New London, Connecticut, where they spend the majority of their time working as independent conservators for many large and small museums as well as private collectors. In 1999 they were awarded a Winterthur Advanced Research Fellowship to study American painters' techniques. In 2003 they were guest scholars at the Getty Research Institute. Address: Lyman Allyn Art Museum, 625 Williams St., New London, Conn. 06320