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Wednesday, May 15 • 4:00pm - 4:30pm
(Book and Paper) Legacy vs. Losses in Hedda Sterne’s Complex Monotypes

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Six works on paper by Hedda Sterne (American, 1910 - 2011) dating from 1947 - 1950 were brought to the Conservation Center, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, for examination and treatment. Described as “monotypes”, “transfer drawings”, or “traced monotypes”, the works defy simple categorization due to their complex and unorthodox fabrication. The study of Sterne’s materials and a reconstruction of her working processes helped to better understand these works as experimental studies. Multiple layers of oil paint were printed rapidly, in one session, likely using the same matrix for registration. Several of the works have graphite drawings on the versos, indicating that a pencil was used as a stylus to transfer the wet medium from the matrix to the recto of the print, much like transfer drawings. The works on paper arrived in poor condition having creases, tape stains, acidic mounts, and adhesive stains, as well as a number of prominent and distracting losses. The question of whether or not to fill the losses quickly arose and to what extent they should remain visible on both the recto and verso. With the exception of one work, where the loss significantly increased the risk of future damage, the justification to fill the losses was principally cosmetic. In reaching a decision, the origins of the damage, the double-sided nature of the works, and the degree of finish desired by the owner, The Hedda Sterne Foundation, needed to be weighed. The ethics of conservation treatments, specifically for works on paper, were debated long before they were finally codified in the mid-twentieth century, thus providing a template for decision-making. In designing the strategy for loss compensation in the Hedda Sterne works, Max Schweidler’s 1938 book, The Restoration of Engravings, Drawings, Books and Other Works on Paper and the AIC’s Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice, were consulted. In addition, the series of questions presented in Jane McAusland’s 2002 article, “The practicalities and aesthetics of retouching: Rationality versus intuition” provided helpful and practical guidance. Critical to the discussion, was the inclusion of The Hedda Sterne Foundation, the principal stakeholder and strong advocate for Hedda Sterne’s legacy. The Foundation’s position was to create visually seamless fills, in recognition that these works may need to be displayed in the future. Thus, the goal of the treatment was to reduce the distraction of the losses and allow each print to be viewed and appreciated as a unified whole.

avatar for Rachel Mochon

Rachel Mochon

Graduate Student, The Conservation Center, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University
Rachel Mochon is a third-year conservation student specializing in works of art on paper at the Conservation Center Institute of Fine Arts New York University. Rachel received her bachelor’s degree in Chemistry & Chemical Biology with a minor in The History of Art from Cornell University... Read More →

Wednesday May 15, 2019 4:00pm - 4:30pm EDT
Earth Ballroom A Earth Convention Center, Mohegan Sun
  Specialty Session, Book and Paper