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Thursday, May 30 • 4:30pm - 5:00pm
(Book and Paper) Treatment and Housing Techniques for Pastel (Paintings) on Paper – Case Studies

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Soyeon Choi, Senior Paper Conservator at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts; Jessica Makin, Manager of Housing and Framing Services at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts

Pastel paintings mounted on a wooden stretcher are vulnerable to tears and punctures caused by accidents or exerted tension under fluctuating environmental conditions. On the other hand, pastel paintings adhered to paperboard give rise to different condition problems associated mostly with warping or brittleness of the paperboard. In both cases, works that have received poor care frequently require treatment of scratches, abrasions, mold damage, and water damage. Here, we will engage in a comparative study of pastels on wooden stretcher and paperboard, addressing both treatment and housing issues involved in each.

In the first part of this presentation, treatment techniques for dealing with pastel paintings mounted on wooden stretchers will be discussed, with examples of pastel portraits by American folk artist Micah Williams (1782-1837). Williams’ original pastel portraits are typically executed on wove or laid paper support, glued onto a wooden stretcher, and accompanied by a loose lining(s) of local, period specific newspaper. The discussion will include surface cleaning using the tip of a kneaded eraser, mending tears with Klucel-G pre-coated mulberry paper, dealing with sprung-open tears or tears that are not reachable from underneath, and various in-painting techniques using ground pigment, grated soft pastel, and pastel pencil. Next, techniques for working with pastel paintings adhered on paperboards will be discussed, with examples of Micah Williams’ pastels that were badly modified by poor treatment in the past, as well as other pastels by Edgar Degas (1834-1917) in their original board mounted format. Due to the soft, friable nature of pastel media, removal of the backing or flattening the secondary paperboard is rarely feasible. Treatment is thus typically limited to problems independent of the secondary support.

In the second half of this talk, housing designs will be discussed which have been employed to safely enclose pastels on paper in three different formats: unmounted, mounted on paperboard, and mounted on wooden stretchers. These housing designs take into account the unique nature of the pastel media, the character of the support, and the concern for an optimal preservation environment. Using the Micah Williams pastels and the Degas painting as examples, we will look at options for glazing, mats, spacers, and the use of a Marvelseal® package, to provide a supportive, physically stable, and low stress environment inside the frame. These housings have been used as a preventive measure against many of the condition issues that arise from the handling, storage, and display of these vulnerable paintings.


Soyeon Choi

Senior Paper Conservator, Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts

Jessica Makin

Manager, Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts

Thursday May 30, 2013 4:30pm - 5:00pm EDT
JW Marriott White River Ballroom E 10 S West St Indianapolis, IN 46204

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