WAACNewsletter
Volume 1, Number 3, Sept. 1979, p.5.

Letter to the Editor: A Proposal for Promoting Labels with Technical Data

by James L. Greaves

As an offshoot of discussions on what type of format to proceed with in the artists interview, I would like to suggest another approach to obtaining information from the artists.

We have all, at one time or another, wished the artist had given us some solid information as to what materials were used in the object in front of us or what "surface finish" was intended. Yet, in handling several hundred paintings, I have encountered labels with such information only once or twice--for instance, Thomas Hart Benton recorded his mixtures during early experimentation with PVA as a medium.

The idea of convincing artists to label their works with solid technical information (as opposed to the ubiquitous "mixed- media") is not new, but it would still seem to be the easiest way to record information which will otherwise be lost or forgotten. If such labeling could be coordinated with an artist's log and/or a central repository of technical information so much the better.

I propose that the WAAC as an organization and its individual members consider an active promotion of a labeling system through personal contact with artists and indirectly through enlisting the assistance of fine arts instructors, providing supportive lectures where possible. By approaching the beginning artists it is hoped that we could overcome resistance and perhaps instill some respect for permanence as well. For instance, if instructors insisted on the inclusion of such labels by their students, at least some might see the merit in keeping such information and retain the habit. Likewise, the appearance of such labels might in time encourage dealers, collectors, and museums to request such information.

Below is a sample label format--which could be modified for objects or other materials such as textiles, which Stan Derelian says are reaching such a point of materials complexity that traditional categories and treatment no longer can be readily applied. I suggest that the WAAC give consideration to printing and distributing such labels, at least on a trial basis (including a written explanation for their use and reason for it). If feedback is positive we could look to other sources for financial aid for broader distribution. Please review the sample label and send me your ideas, both pro and con.

In a similar vein, might I also suggest the use of information labels by conservators to summarize data on adhesives, consolidants, paints, varnishes, etc., used in restoration. Such labels would carry the basic data with the object and could refer the next conservator to the location of more complete technical records.

James L. Greaves

[below is an approximation of the proposed label format]

----------------------------------------------------------------
|                                                              |
|         IMPORTANT TECHNICAL DATA -  KEEP WITH ARTWORK        |
| MAY ASSIST CONSERVATORS IN CASE OF DAMAGE OR FUTURE CLEANING |
|                                                              |
|  ARTIST:                                      DATE:          |
|                                                              |
|  TITLE:                                       I.D.#:         |
|                                                              |
|  ORIGINAL DIMENSIONS:                                        |
|                                                              |
|  SUPPORT / PRIMING / GROUND:                                 |
|                                                              |
|  DESIGN LAYER/MEDIA:                                         |
|                                                              |
|  SURFACE FINISH/GLOSS:                                       |
|                                                              |
|  THIS INFORMATION HAS BEEN PROVIDED BY THE ARTIST WITH THE   |
|  COOPERATION OF THE WESTERN ASSOCIATION OF ART CONSERVATORS  |
|  CAUTION:  ATTACH TO SECONDARY SUPPORT ONLY, DO NOT AFFIX TO |
|  ORIGINAL FABRIC OR PAPER SUPPORT                            |
----------------------------------------------------------------

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