WAACNewsletter
Volume 12, Number 1, Jan. 1990, pp.21-22

In Memoriam: Keiko Mizushima Keyes

by Robert Futernick

Keiko Mizushima Keyes, an internationally acclaimed conservator of art, died at her home in Woodacre, California on November 21. She was 50 years old.

Keiko was born in Himeji, Japan, and was educated in art history at International Christian University, Tokyo, and psychology of art at Sarah Lawrence College. She was an accomplished musician and composer when she began her career in conservation. She studied Japanese scroll mounting and general paper conservation with Iwataro Oka, President of the Mounter's Association for National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties, Kyoto, Japan. She later worked at R.E. Lewis, Fine Prints, and then as a conservator at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco with Roy Perkinson, Robert Futernick and Pauline Mohr. In 1975, she opened an independent conservation studio at her home in Woodacre.

Keiko was renowned as an art conservation consultant, researcher, and teacher in the conservation of works of art on paper and was a leading expert in the treatment of Japanese woodblock prints. She was a Fellow of the American Institute of Conservation and the International Institute of Conservation. In 1976 and 1977, she was professor of paper conservation at Cooperstown Graduate Conservation Training Program, and later taught at Oberlin College, John F. Kennedy University, and the University of California. She collaborated with her husband, Roger Keyes, a noted art historian, in teaching seminars on Japanese prints, and together they wrote a book entitled "The Theatrical World of Osaka Prints," among numerous other publications.

She served as conservator to museums around the world, including The Allen Art Museum, Musees Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire in Brussels, The Kimbell Art Museum, The Cleveland Art Museum,The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Stanford University Art Museum, The Santa Barbara Museum of Art, The Grunewald Collection at U.C.L.A., and the National Park Service. Her treatment of privately owned prints and drawings also extended to world-wide collections in such cities as New York, Tokyo, London, Paris, and Cologne.

Keiko published and lectured widely and is responsible for many innovative solutions to art conservation problems. She combined intellectual and scientific acumen with the highest standards of craftsmanship. A pioneer in blending the best of Eastern and Western restoration methods, Keiko developed and introduced many treatment approaches that are now in widespread use. Notable among these is a safe method for reducing disfiguring staining by exposure to light. She also perfected procedures for pulp-filling damaged or missing areas of paper, and a friction drying method for flattening paper.

Keiko was well-known for her ability to understand the complex range of factors affecting the condition and care of works of art. Through her teaching and writing, she profoundly influenced the field of art conservation with her unique methods and treatment philosophy. She once wrote, "Works of art on paper are intimate objects. They are usually small in size and were meant to be seen at close range. They are often limited in the materials they depend on for experience. Many are done in black and white or single colors. The interplay of the paper with the medium is always crucial to the visual effect. In treating works of art on paper we must be aware of the subtle qualities of texture, tone, and three-dimensionality that they have, and adjust our methods of treatment to preserve these qualities. This is easier said than done, perhaps; but I hope that you have already begun to experience the subtleties in your work with paper, and have been able to accommodate them in your working methods."

For those of us who knew her professionally, we have lost a great colleague, and for those of us who knew her personally, we have lost a great friend. She is survived by her husband, Roger Keyes; a daughter Aenea Keyes; her parents Mr. and Mrs. Usaburo Mizushima of Sendai, Japan; and two brothers, Nobuyuki Makamura, also of Sendai, and Yasuhiko Mizushima of Saga, Japan.

Robert Futernick, December 5, 1989

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