Thursday, May 16 • 11:00am - 11:30am
(Paintings) Hazy Conditions: Revealing the Materials and Techniques of Edwin Austin Abbey's Efflorescing Oil Studies and Exploring New Approaches to Treatment

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In 1937, the studio contents of the American artist Edwin Austin Abbey (1852-1911) were donated to the Yale University Art Gallery (YUAG). Consisting of over 2,000 works on paper and canvas from every step of Abbey’s artistic process, this comprehensive collection provides a unique opportunity to study the materials and techniques of an experimental painter working at the turn of the 20th century. The collection contains over 600 paintings, many of which are unvarnished or selectively varnished preparatory studies for larger compositions. Rarely treated or exhibited, these untouched surfaces bear valuable and often transient evidence of Abbey’s thought process and original materials. About half of these paintings also display widespread surface efflorescence, which often obscures the compositions and drastically alters the tonality and saturation of the paint layers. Beginning in the fall of 2017, YUAG conservators have completed the structural and aesthetic treatment of several Abbey paintings in preparation for the upcoming exhibition American Renaissance. This research focuses on four paintings completed as preparatory studies for murals in the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. Painted between 1902 and 1910, each of these oil-on-canvas works originates from a different stage in Abbey’s artistic process, with a wide diversity in paint application and level of finish. Abbey’s materials reflect the broad range of new materials available to artists at the turn of the century, as is supported by his account in the Roberson Archive. Insights into his working process and painting technique grew out of close observation, x-radiography, and infrared reflectography, and the non-invasive analytical techniques of x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF) and macro x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (MA-XRF). The aesthetic treatment of these works was complicated by their underbound, easily burnished, and highly soluble surfaces, likely a result of the use of experimental painting materials and the omnipresence of metal soaps. Cleaning zinc carboxylate efflorescence will be addressed in depth, including discussion about the working properties, advantages, and disadvantages of using silicone solvents and the silicone emulsifier Shin Etsu KSG-350Z. Cleaning was greatly informed by analyzing the morphology and composition of samples of the efflorescence, coatings, and ground layers with field emission-scanning electron microscopy/energy dispersive spectroscopy (FE-SEM/EDS), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), conducted in collaboration with Yale’s Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage (IPCH). Uniting this analytical data with information gained through archival research at the Roberson Archive at the Hamilton Kerr Institute, significant correlations can be drawn between Abbey’s use of specific materials, such as commercially prepared supports and coatings containing driers, and the formation of the efflorescence.

avatar for Kelsey Wingel

Kelsey Wingel

Postgraduate Associate in Paintings Conservation, Yale University Art Gallery
Kelsey Wingel is a postgraduate associate in paintings conservation at the Yale University Art Gallery. She has spent the past two years concentrating on the technical research and treatment of paintings by the American artist Edwin Austin Abbey. Her research has focused on understanding... Read More →

avatar for Aniko Bezur

Aniko Bezur

Professional Associate, Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, Yale University
Anikó Bezur received a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Arizona. As a doctoral candidate, she completed a internships in at the Arizona State Museum's Conservation Laboratory, the Smithsonian Institution's Museum Conservation Institute, and the Getty... Read More →
avatar for Cynthia Schwarz

Cynthia Schwarz

Associate Conservator of Paintings, Yale University Art Gallery
Cynthia Schwarz is the Associate Conservator of Paintings at the Yale University Art Gallery. Her research interests include the structural treatment of canvas paintings, the conservation of 19th- and 20th-century American murals, and how advances in microbiology can aid in materials... Read More →

Katherine Schilling

Associate Conservation Research Scientist, Yale University
Katherine Schilling is an associate conservation research scientist at the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage and an associate research scientist and lecturer in the department of Chemical Engineering at Yale University. She earned her PhD in chemical physics at the... Read More →
avatar for Pablo Londero

Pablo Londero

Conservation Scientist, Yale University
Pablo Londero has worked as a conservation scientist for six years. He received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Rochester in 2005, specializing in quantum and nonlinear optical physics. He has held the position of Research Associate at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and... Read More →
avatar for Richard R. Hark

Richard R. Hark

Assistant Conservation Scientist, Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, Yale University
Dr. Richard R. Hark is an assistant conservation scientist at Yale’s Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage (IPCH). He is currently on leave from Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania where he is the H. George Foster Professor of Chemistry. Dr. Hark earned degrees... Read More →

Thursday May 16, 2019 11:00am - 11:30am
Salon B2, Uncas Ballroom
  • Track Paintings
  • Ticketed Included in Main Registration
  • Authors in Publication Order Kelsey Wingel, Cynthia Schwarz, Richard Hark, Anikó Bezur, Katherine Schilling, Pablo Londero
  • Abstract ID 19108
  • Tags Edwin Austin Abbey,efflorescence,bloom,zinc soap,zinc carboxylate,free fatty acid,Shin Etsu KSG-350Z,silicone emulsifier,silicone solvent,decamethylcyclopentasiloxane (D5),field emission-scanning electron microscopy/energy dispersive spectroscopy (FE-SEM/

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