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SV Gallery to Demonstrate Art Conservation in Exhibit from Archabbey Collection

Public Relations
Posted: Monday Aug 29, 2011
The Saint Vincent Gallery will present an exhibition of 17th through 20th century works selected from the Saint Vincent Archabbey Art Collection that demonstrates art conservation issues and techniques from Friday, September 16 to Sunday, December 11. Admission is free and open to the public.

An opening reception will be held from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, September 15.

Regular Gallery hours are 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. The Gallery is closed on Mondays. The Gallery will also be closed October 15 to 18 for fall break and November 22 to 28 for Thanksgiving break.

This exhibit grew out of the work of a Gallery Committee that was formed following the awarding of a Museum Assessment Program Grant the Gallery received two years ago from the American Association of Museums. The committee’s goal was to develop a mission statement and a collection management policy. The focus was on educating the public and students and preserving the existing art collections. “So much of our collection is from the 17, 18, 19 and 20th centuries and like all organic things is deteriorating with age,” noted Br. Nathan Cochran, Gallery director. “There had not been a systematic means of assessing works that need to be conserved or developing a plan for financing the restoration.”

“In our discussions, we talked about the fact that so much of the College and Archabbey Art Collections are never seen because of their condition,” Br. Nathan continued. “We decided that showing art works that need to be restored and educating people about what happens to paintings over the years and how they can be restored would be an interesting show.”

The College and Archabbey Collections total more than 5,000 catalogued objects, about a fourth of which are traditional paintings such as oil on canvas or acrylic on panel. Most of the nearly three dozen paintings selected for this exhibit are from the Archabbey Collection.

“Most of the works in the show were examined by professional conservator Christine Daulton, who has assessed what treatment each work needs and made an estimate of what it will cost to conserve or restore each of them,” Br. Nathan continued. “This will form the basis for our new “Adopt a Painting Program” with particular paintings having specific adoption prices. If someone likes a painting and wants to see it conserved and restored, they can adopt that painting and their name will be forever associated with it. Contributions can be made as a one-time payment or in installments over a period of time. Some works need just minor repairs and others need major restoration so the adoption prices will vary from $100 to $10,000.”

Works to be shown include a painting from the Circle of Johann Loth, a significant Baroque painter, whose large work needed only minor repair and will be shown newly conserved. “Art history-wise, it may be the most significant painting in the show,” Br. Nathan commented.

A painting of Saint Benedict, by German immigrant artist Johann Schmitt with ties to Saint Vincent Archabbey, will be featured. Another painting of the Crucifixion demonstrates damage that can occur, in this case intentional stabbing with a pen that created numerous holes in the canvas. The original work is by a South Greensburg painter named Rinaldo Paluzzi who now lives in Spain.

Other paintings to be exhibited suffer from poor restoration and unskilled conservation techniques from earlier ages, and others, such as a portrait of Saint Vincent founder, Boniface Wimmer, has paint peeling away from different areas of the surface due to inherent vice. Other paintings have been removed from their frames or have been damaged from moving, poor storage or from fire.

“We are trying to show works that represent different types of damage,” Br. Nathan added, “so that viewing them would be educational and interesting.”

The show will also include some works that have already been restored or are in the process of restoration. “A pair of paintings of Saint Benedict and Saint Scholastica are interesting since Saint Scholastica has already been restored and Saint Benedict has damage that needs to be repaired,” he said. “Another is an example of an over-zealous restoration that was only half finished but is instructive because it demonstrates the change that restoration can accomplish with the removal or old varnish and debris. Even rips, tears and gouges can be repaired.”

Other works were among those given to Saint Vincent by King Ludwig of Bavaria in the late 1800s.

In conjunction with the exhibit, Christine Daulton, conservator for the Andy Warhol Museum and the Greater Latrobe High School Art Collection, will give a free public lecture, “Where Art and Science Meet: Art Conservation and Restoration,” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, October 13 in the Robert S. Carey Student Center Performing Arts Center. The Gallery will also be open an hour before and after the lecture.

Members of the Gallery Committee include Tracy Branson, Br. Nathan Cochran, O.S.B., Jordan Hainsey, Alice Kaylor, Dr. Karen Kehoe, Br. Elliott Maloney, O.S.B., Ben Schachter, and Summer Toffle.

Future exhibits scheduled in the Saint Vincent Gallery include “2 x 20” featuring works by 20 regional artists February 3 to 19, and two senior exhibitions featuring works by graduating art majors March 16 to 25 and April 20 to 29.


Photo: Br. Nathan Cochran, O.S.B., Gallery director, holds a 17th century painting of Saint Dominic that has surface abrasions and other damage that needs repaired.