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Interns Keara Teeter (left), a UD art conservation graduate student, and Pamela Johnson, a recent alumna of the UD program, stretch one of the
canvases on a horizontal stretcher while other murals stand upright.
A collection of rare mural paintings, In Exaltation of Flowers,
will go on public view in September, for the first time in more than a
century, thanks to conservation work by a team of University of Delaware
students and alumni.
The seven paintings by Edward Jean Steichen, an artist who was best
known for his photography, will be exhibited at the Dallas Museum of Art
from Sept. 5 through May 28. Two students and two recent alumni from
the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation
(WUDPAC) have spent the summer examining the large canvases, studying
the methods and materials the artist used and implementing conservation
The four interns, all specializing in the conservation of paintings,
are working under the supervision of Laura Eva Hartman, the museums
associate paintings conservator who also is a UD alumna. Hartman earned
her bachelors degree in art conservation in 2010 and her masters
degree through WUDPAC in 2013.
Calling the paintings unique and magnificent, Hartman noted that
they have been in storage for 102 years. The conservation team unrolled
the seven canvases and studied them in detail, stretched them onto new
supports and then cleaned and restored their surfaces.
My four UD interns have been phenomenal, Hartman said. They are
all brilliant and extremely talented. Several discoveries were made
during the [examination] process which have greatly enhanced the
historical context of the murals.
The paintings, which were displayed together for the first and only time in 1915, have an intriguing history.
Financier Eugene Meyer and his wife, Agnes, commissioned Steichen in
1911 to create a mural for the foyer of their new Park Avenue townhouse
in New York City. The Meyers were among a group of Steichens
friendswhich also included the dancer Isadora Duncan, actress Mercedes
de Cordoba and painters Arthur Carles and Marion Beckettwho often
visited Steichens home in France, where he had an extensive flower
garden that they all enjoyed.
For the townhouse murals, Steichen depicted his friends in various floral motifs and flower-themed settings.
He worked on the paintings from 1911 to 1914, but the Meyers ran into
financial difficulties and sold their home before the murals could be
installed. The panels were exhibited at a New York gallery and then put
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
Keara Teeter uses a dry sponge to remove accumulated dirt from the surface of a Steichen painting.
In a series of blogs, the UD conservation interns have detailed their work throughout the summer.
Because the canvases had been rolled up for more than a century, they
were marred by water damage, dust and dirt, which dulled the colors
and deadened the sheen of the paint, interns wrote. After gently
cleaning each mural with tiny sponges, the interns found a surprisingly
fresh surface on the paintings.
Intern and 2016 WUDPAC alumna Pamela Johnson described the early part
of the project, when the conservators were unrolling and stretching the
large panels, getting them ready for more detailed work.
While the most glamorous parts of conservation treatments are
usually the final steps the beginning of a project often includes a
lot of preparatory work and a healthy amount of elbow grease, Johnson
wrote. It is just as important that we are precise in these first
stages of treatment as we are in the final steps.
The team also used X-ray fluorescence technology to analyze the elements present in the paintings.
Throughout the treatment, the team has had the unique opportunity to
look at very early examples of Steichens paintings and artistic
career, and have done a brilliant job of examining and documenting the
entire process, Hartman said. We are looking forward to publishing our
findings and for the opening of the exhibition that will accompany the
The conservation interns working this summer to prepare the Steichen painting for exhibition are all students or alumni of WUDPAC, a three-year masters degree program operated jointly by the University of Delaware and Winterthur Museum.
Internationally known, the program is one of only five graduate
programs in art conservation in North America and one of only two
jointly sponsored between a university and a museum.
The conservation interns working on the Steichen project were Keara
Teeter 19, Diana Hartman 18, Pamela Johnson 16 and Samantha Skelton
14. Supervising the project was Laura Eva Hartman 10, 13M.
Founded in 1903, the Dallas Museum of Art is one of the 10 largest art museums in the United States. It opened its in-house Paintings Conservation Studio in 2013.
The exhibition Edward Steichen: In Exaltation of Flowers (1910-1914)
is overseen by Sue Canterbury, the museums Pauline Gill Sullivan
Associate Curator of American Art. The murals in the exhibition are part
of a private collection.
Article by Ann Manser; photos courtesy of Dallas Museum of Art