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1 A PUBLICATION of T he Williamstown Art Conservation Center Volume 7, Number 1 Spring 2012 Williamstown Art Conservation Center 1

2 Contents, Spring 2012 From the Director Art Conservator Volume 7, Number 1 Spring 2012 Director T homas J. Branchick Editor Timothy Cahill Art Direction and Production Berg Design, Albany NY Photographer Matthew Hamilton Contributors Hugh Glover, Lauren LaFlam, Zoë Samels, Michelle Savant, Larry Shutts Proofreader David Brickman Office Manager Rob Conzett Accounts Manager Teresa Haskins Printing Snyder Printer, Troy, NY Williamstown Art Conservation Center 227 South Street Williamstown, MA T: F: Atlanta Art Conservation Center 6000 Peachtree Road Atlanta, GA T: F: All rights reserved. Text and photographs copyright Williamstown Art Conservation Center (WACC), unless otherwise noted. Art Conservator is published twice yearly by WACC, T homas J. Branchick, director. Material may not be reproduced in any form without written permission of Williamstown Art Conservation Center. WACC is a nonprofit, multi-service conservation center serving the needs of member museums, nonprofit institutions and laboratories, and the general public. 3 Director s Letter 4 Nymphs Reborn Conservation casts new light on William Bouguereau s Nymphs and Satyr By Timothy Cahill 8 The Talladega Murals Hale Woodruff s Amistad masterpiece embarks on a national tour By Larry Shutts 12 Pinning Down History Insects, America, and the Art of John Hampson By Zoë Samels 16 WACC News & Notes Mongolian conservator completes residency; reconstructing David Deconstructed; Roy Lichtenstein s Wallpaper 18 Report from Atlanta Polish and shine for a surrealist sculpture 19 Tech Notes Original Picture Frames on Watercolors by Charles Burchfield By Hugh Glover A few weeks ago I completed one of the most complicated treatments of my career, William Adolphe Bouguereau s huge painting Nymphs and Satyr, owned by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institutute. The structural part of the treatment was straightforward. The canvas s 1942 lining peeled away with ease. Removing the adhesive residue was just as easy it swelled with moisture and was merely a repetitive exercise. The protective facing tissue did its job keeping the paint film intact. The cleaning and cosmetic treatment, however that was complicated. We knew that the painting was abraded during the 1942 cleaning. We also knew that a thick, syrupy varnish was applied at that time to cover up the abrasion and linear ridges from the botched lining. Removing the discolored varnish was the intent of the conservation campaign. This required the curatorial authorities at the Clark Art institute to reach a consensus on the degree of cleaning. There were many sleepless 3AM-ers on this one. Remembering the controversy surrounding the Sistine chapel cleaning, one faction leaned toward maintaining the painting s brownish veil of age. My concern was, what did the artist intend? In the last issue of Art Conservator, I forecast that that big white tushy was going to be a lot whiter. How much whiter created some debate, but much discussion later the question was resolved to everyone s agreement. The cleaning balanced the highlights of flesh in the composition, which in my opinion is what the painting is all about. You can travel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where the picture is on loan, to see this glorious painting in its new clothes or more correctly, lack of them or wait until its return to Williamstown when the Clark reopens in Speaking of the Clark s expansion, I walked up the earth berm overlooking the construction site where our old building used to be. Nothing was there except a small pile of rubble and, after a fleeting moment of nostalgia, my mind quickly hastened to the space that we are in. We sure have moved up, which is evident in the picture below. Marc Simpson at the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art sent along a point of correction regarding our Fall 2011 issue. The article incorrectly reported that the Willem de Kooning painting Labyrinth had not been on exhibition since 1946, but Mark aptly pointed out the large painting was exhibited in the early 1990s at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, where he was curator, after which it went to the Addison Gallery in Andover. Turns out there were several debuts prior to last year s retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. Tom Branchick On the cover William Bouguereau s Nymphs and Satyr (detail), faced in Japanese tissue during treatment. The newly-lined Nymphs and Satyr in the paintings lab prior to cleaning. Chairs used by summer visitors at Stone Hill Center stand empty as autumn makes its arrival in the Berkshires. 2 Art Conservator Spring 2012 Williamstown Art Conservation Center 3

3 Cover Story Nymphs Reborn Conservation casts new light on William Bouguereau s Nymphs and Satyr By Timothy Cahill On a March day in 1934, Robert Sterling Clark spent the day at the Manhattan Storage Company, a storage and warehouse firm that occupied a full block in midtown Manhattan. After inspecting the wine cellars and making arrangements to have a large stock of his own vintages transferred there, the multimillionaire collector was taken on a tour of the art storage galleries, where he encountered a painting he hadn t seen for more than thirty years. Clark recorded the finding in his diary. I saw the famous 1873 Bouguereau Satyr & Nymphs again which used to be in the old Hoffman House bar. It really is a fine picture. Marvelous nudes especially the back of one.... Except by men of a certain age, the picture Clark discovered Nymphs and Satyr, by William Bouguereau had been all but forgotten by 1934, though it was once the most infamous artwork of Gilded Age New York. From 1882 to 1901, the monumental depiction of four sportive nymphs pulling a goat-man into a wooded pool was the centerpiece of the Hoffman House bar, the most famous hotel barroom in America, made famous in part by that very painting. Its image had decorated cigar boxes, plates, urns, and bathroom tiles, and the painting had been viewed by an assortment of celebrities and dignitaries from Buffalo Bill to Ulysses Grant even Tchaikovsky saw it following a performance at Carnegie Hall. For three decades, every swell in New York made his way to Broadway and 25th Street to partake of Nymphs, where its heady combination of aesthetics and eros was displayed beneath a red velvet canopy. Once a week, ladies were permitted in. To Sterling Clark, it was the Hoffman House of my youth. This would have been around 1899, the year that Clark, heir to Singer Sewing Machine millions, graduated from Yale and entered the Army to fight in the Spanish-American war in the Philippines. Clark then served in China during the Boxer Rebellion until By the time he returned to New York, the Hoffman House was under new ownership and Nymphs had disappeared into storage. The picture did not fade from consciousness at first, despite being gone from view. In 1905, cartoonist E.A. Filleau celebrated Nymphs and Satyr in a drawing titled, Weary Walker at Art Exhibit. A patched and matted hobo contemplates the Bouguereau in a posh salon. I ve traveled the world over and tramped every spot on the map, the vagabond aesthete muses, but I m damned if I can locate that brook was also the year Bouguereau died, in La Rochelle, France, the town of his birth. He had once been the most successful artist of his day, but by his passing his reputation was also nearly expired. As Bouguereau lay on his death bed, six hundred kilometers south in the Mediterranean sun Henri Matisse was inventing Fauvism; in Paris, Picasso was just two years away from resequencing the DNA of Western art with Les Demoiselles d Avignon. After World War One, the art world accelerated ever more quickly away from what modernists considered the dead past. Nothing represented the rotting corpse more than the polished sentimentality of nineteenth-century French academic painting, for which Bouguereau was the exemplar and last great acolyte. Bouguereau was not dead thirty years when Clark found his greatest masterpiece forgotten in a midtown warehouse, but it may as well have been three centuries. By the 1930s, Bouguereau was persona non grata in modernist history, and only someone whose artistic sensibility was formed amid the opulent paneling of the Hoffman House would have felt much affinity for Nymphs. Clark was such a man. He made inquiries about buying the picture the same day he saw it. Fast-forward eight years. Clark has not forgotten Nymphs and Opposite, Nymphs and Satyr (1873) by William Bouguereau, after treatment. This page, detail before treatment, showing surface imperfections.. 4 Art Conservator Spring 2012 Williamstown Art Conservation Center 5

4 Satyr, nor has he had any luck obtaining it. By 1942, however, the owner of the painting had died and his estate was willing to entertain offers. That June, Clark added the picture to his everexpanding art collection, which spanned Western art from Piero della Francesca to Manet, Monet, Renoir, and Degas. At once, he devised a way for Nymphs to become the talk of Manhattan and support the French Resistance in the process. (As a young man, Clark had lived many happy years in now Nazi-occupied Paris; it was where he began collecting art and met his French wife, Francine. He also owned property there.) The painting was placed on exhibit at the upscale Durand-Ruel Gallery with a twenty-five-cent admission, proceeds going to the Fighting French Relief Committee. The event drew the attention of every editor and announcer in New York. Before placing Nymphs and Satyr on exhibition, Clark sent it to an art restorer named Murray to stabilize the original canvas, which had ripped loose at the edges. This is when the tale begins for the Williamstown Art Conservation Center, where the painting was conserved earlier this year. Now owned by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Nymphs had been brought to WACC for treatment prior to an extended loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The painting arrived at the Center just before Christmas and was worked on between January and April. For whatever reason, Murray was not up to the job Clark hired him to do, which involved reinforcing the existing canvas with a lining, and cleaning and revarnishing the painting. Perhaps it was the size of the Bouguereau, some eight feet by six feet, that stymied Murray. Perhaps he worked too fast, or was not skilled at his trade. Or perhaps he was insufficiently sensitive to the materials and techniques of high French academicism. Whatever the reason, the one-named restorer made a noticeable hash of the picture s surface, and seventy years later undoing his work was at the heart of the WACC treatment. Bouguereau had used a thin linen support with a very fine weave for his painting, which allowed him to achieve the enamel smoothness of its finished surface. Heedless of this, Murray lined the painting with a heavier, coarser canvas, one guaranteed to show its texture through the linen. He followed this by restretching the newly-lined painting before the adhesive had fully cured. The result: radical flaws in the varnish and paint layers that were instantly obvious in raking light. Two horizontal welts, impressions made by the stretcher against the still-soft liner, marked the picture one-third and two-thirds of the way from the top, the lower welt embossing a line through the small of the back of the main nude figure. The face of the painting was additionally marred by a network of irregular corrugations, alluvial ridges and furrows that showed bright highlights along their spines and cast a web of thin shadows. The effect of this uneven texture, caused by imprinting of the course lining on Bouguereau s original handkerchief linen support, was exactly like ripples breaking the surface of a pool. In glancing light, you couldn t see through them to the nymphs below. Murray cleaned the painting by thinning but not entirely removing Bouguereau s original dammar varnish layer. Over this, he applied a thick layer of mastic varnish, a substance that yellows quickly with age. Additional varnish was added in 1956, the year Sterling and Francine opened the museum they d built for their art treasures. The picture went untouched for three decades, until 1984, when it traveled as part of a major Bouguereau retrospective to Montreal and Hartford. In preparation for the tour, a synthetic varnish was applied to protect the paint surface and mask the imperfections of the 1942 restoration. Since then, the painting, perhaps the most memorable in the Clark collection, had been viewed through four layers of varnish going back to Varnish is pale yellow when applied and mellows to a tawnybrown with oxidation. This, augmented by ambient atmospheric debris, is what provides the golden glow of Old Master paintings. Museum-goers come to regard this discoloration as a patina of venerable tradition, and many are upset when it is removed to reveal often brilliant colors in place of once-muted tones. While correcting the picture s surface flaws involved the relatively straightforward procedure of removing the old lining and replacing it with a newer, more appropriate fabric, what to do with the varnish was much more complex. The 1984 synthetic layer was easily removed, but the question was how much of Murry s thick mastic varnish to take off. Cleaning windows exposed a starkly brighter painting than anyone was used to. As the old mastic coat was slowly lifted off, the nymphs Coppertone tans were transformed to blushing alabaster. The glow of the skin tones echoed notices Nymphs had received when it was first exhibited in the 1873 Paris salon. Of the four dryads, critic Jules Claretie observed, the gloss of their skin could only have been obtained through long, repeated baths in almond milk. The [flesh] of the nymphs of Mr. Bouguereau... bring to mind pink silk, even more than the pulp of some tasty fruit. Removal of the varnish required consultation between senior conservators and the Clark curatorial staff. Tom Branchick, chief paintings conservator and WACC director, performed the treatment only after repeated meetings with Clark personnel to determine how much of the original paint layer to reveal. The question was not merely one of the varnish, but also of the stability of the paint itself. Bouguereau created stunning visual effects through the layering of thin washes of color, glazes and scumbles that excessive cleaning might threaten. In many cases, leaving the varnish untouched was the most prudent way to protect the artist s subtle passages of light and dark. The removal of the old varnish revealed more than the painter s original palette. The signal quality of Bouguereau s technique, for both admirers and detractors, is its glossy surface, what one scholar called the school of the invisible brushstroke. With the varnish removed, this is no longer entirely the case. The cleaned canvas now shows signs of Bouguereau s fine, controlled brushwork, and gives a powerful impression of the shifting, darting movements of his hand as he spread and blended the pigments. This physicality animates the newly conserved painting. Beyond the obvious pleasure of four undraped females, there are additional visual delights. Light shimmers across the picture plane, leading the eye in a graceful dance of highlights and reinforcing the complex dynamics of Bouguereau s composition. Charming details are visible once more, the silken hair of the nymphs, for instance, or the evocative brushwork in the vegetation along the pool. There is an area just behind the satyr s profile, framed by the arms of two women, which was an indistinct graygreen smudge before cleaning but now glows like stained glass. Nymphs and Satyr, surely the finest Bouguereau in this country, is for all its silly subject matter arguably a great painting. Now, for the first time in over a century, we can better see the painting as the artist intended. Critical reassessments in the past thirty years have ended the artist s exile as an art-world nonentity, though his rehabilitation is hardly complete. Nymphs as it can now be seen is likely to influence this process. Stages of treatment, from left: WACC director and head paintings conservator Tom Branchick removes stretcher tacks after protecting the paint surface with Japanese tissue prior to lining removal; checkerboard washing of residual adhesive on original support; removing old varnish with cotton swabs and solvent; cleaning window detail revealing skin tones and sky before and after treatment; Branchick discusses treatment options with Clark Art Institute director Michael Conforti. 6 Art Conservator Spring 2012 Williamstown Art Conservation Center 7

5 Feature Conserving the Talladega Murals Hale Woodruff s Amistad masterpiece embarks on a national tour By Larry Shutts In 1938, Hale Aspacio Woodruff ( ) was commissioned by Talladega College to produce a series of murals for the college s new library, then under construction. The library would be named for William Savery, the former slave who had co-founded Talladega College, and the college wanted the murals to reflect the struggle and triumph of African-Americans. Woodruff was thirty-eight years old and wellknown in the South and beyond; he had worked with Diego Rivera in Mexico, exhibited in Atlanta, and gained a reputation for his frank, evocative depictions of the suffering and dignity of his people. The subject of the project s first three murals would be a largely forgotten episode in the history of American slavery, the revolt in 1839 by thirty-five kidnapped Africans on the Spanish slave ship Amistad. The uprising and subsequent capture of the Africans was a cause célèbre in the United States in its day. In 1841, former president John Quincy Adams argued for the Amistad defendants before the Supreme Court, which granted them their freedom. A foundation established to support the triumphant Africans eventually provided seed money to found Talladega College, one of the country s leading institutions founded for the education of African-Americans. Woodruff s murals revived both scholarly and popular interest in the uprising; in 1997, Steven Spielberg retold the Amistad story in a film that used Woodruff s murals as source material. The Amistad murals depict the three dramatic climaxes of the narrative, the shipboard revolt, the courtroom trail, and the Africans repatriation to their home country of Sierra Leone. Woodruff completed three additional murals for the library, one depicting the Underground Railroad and two celebrating Talladega College and Savery Library. The Talladega Murals have long attracted visitors to the college s Alabama campus, and will soon be seen by many more as they begin a three-year tour to museums around the country. Before exhibition, the murals were removed from the walls of Savery Library and brought to the Atlanta Art Conservation Center, the southeast s largest conservation facility, founded by the High Museum of Art and the Williamstown Art Conservation Center. The removal and treatment were led by AACC chief paintings conservator Larry Shutts and assisted by conservators Michelle Savant and Thierry Boutet. Rising Up: Hale Woodruff s Murals at Talladega College opens at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta on June 9 and continues through September 2. From there it travels to Indianapolis and other major cities, including Dallas, New York, Washington, New Orleans, Hartford, Detroit, and Birmingham. Below, in excerpts from an essay in the exhibition catalog, Larry Shutts, Associate Conservator of Paintings at the Atlanta Art Conservation Center, discusses the artist, the murals, and the conservation treatment necessary for their exhibition. Opposite, The Revolt, the first of a sequence of three Amistad murals by Hale Woodruff at Talladega College. Above, Atlanta paintings conservator Larry Shutts conducts solvent tests on one of the murals. The conservation treatment of Hale Woodruff s Talladega College murals was both a challenging and rewarding experience peppered with excitement, innovation, and discovery. Before the murals could be removed from Savery Library, their home for more than seventy years, we had to perform extensive examination and documentation of their existing condition. The initial examination revealed that despite the lack of environmental controls, and despite having been on continuous display since 1939 and 1942, the murals were in surprisingly good condition, with only scattered areas of insecure paint, rolling canvas distortions, and some localized damages. The murals appeared colorful and lively; we would not fully appreciate the extent of the obscuring dirt covering the surface and how it concealed the true vividness of the imagery until cleaning began much later. The foremost intention of the conservation treatment was to stabilize the murals in preparation for both an extended traveling exhibition schedule and continuing long-term display at Talladega College. Treatment of the murals began in April 2011 with preparations for their removal and transportation to the state-of-the-art facilities of the Atlanta Art Conservation Center, an affiliate of the Williamstown Art Conservation Center and High Museum of Art.... Upon arrival at the Conservation Center, the murals were unrolled, photographed, and further studied. Areas of insecure paint that had been protected for transport with Japanese tissue were fully consolidated, and the lifting paint was secured and returned to its proper place. 1 Once the paint layer was stabilized, removal of seventy years worth of accumulated surface dirt, soot, and grime could begin. The murals were installed shortly after their completion, without the application of a traditional varnish layer. Varnish acts both as a surface saturator that enables colors to be seen without the interference of light scattering, and as a sacrificial protectant onto which dirt and grime are deposited. Without the protection of a varnish layer, porous paint combines with the dirt layers, making complete removal complicated, because the paint and dirt occupy the same space. The safe separation of one from the other requires an advanced level of care and skill.... A two-part cleaning system was developed. The first involved the application of a mild aqueous cleaning system that successfully removed the greater part of the surface contaminants without disturbing the delicate paint surface. 2 What remained after the first cleaning was greasy, sooty dirt that responded well to a mild organic solvent solution. 3 Cleaning progressed across the surface following the natural delineations of the composition. Cleaning each new passage began with a new round of testing, with each section requiring slight modifications of the general cleaning system s strength or proportions depending on the sensitivity of the paint layer and the tenacity of the dirt layer. After cleaning, the murals were backed with a secondary fabric, called a lining, and attached to custom-crafted wooden stretchers. 4 The decision to apply a lining fabric and to stretch the previously free-hanging murals accords with the original 8 Art Conservator Spring 2012 Williamstown Art Conservation Center 9

6 intent of the project to prepare the paintings for an extended, multiyear, traveling exhibition and then for perpetual display in Savery Library. The construction of the stretchers was difficult due to the sheer size of the two largest murals, The Court Scene at 71 by 242 ¼ inches and Opening Day at Talladega College at 69 ¾ by 243 ½ inches. The murals would not have fit into most museum elevators or hallways, nor would they fit through the doors and up the stairs at Savery Library. Working with the stretcher maker, we developed an innovative folding stretcher design that allowed the largest murals to be both safely transported to the various venues and to fit back into their original home. The stretcher design consists of a 2 by 2 ¾ inch T profile, with eight vertical and two horizontal crossbars. A 38-inchwide dropout section of the stretcher allows the center portion of the canvas to be detached while retaining support at both ends. This removable dropout made it possible to wrap the painting around a large-diameter tube and to secure the now dimensionally wider but much shorter mural into a specially constructed shipping crate. 5 Once stabilized, cleaned, lined, and stretched, the murals were ready for the process of correcting the damages that had occurred during their years on display. The number of damages was small and mostly limited to paint loss due to water damage-induced flaking, small holes and tears from original and remedial attachment efforts, and errant house paint from architectural molding touchups. Canvas tears were mended and areas of missing paint filled to match the level and texture of the surrounding original paint; 6 paint loss was retouched using pigments ground in reversible synthetic resins; 7 and to prevent future dirt and grime accumulation from penetrating the paint surface, a thin spray of reversible, non-yellowing synthetic varnish was applied. 8 Several fascinating discoveries were made during conservation treatment, beginning with a pencil signature found on the reverse of Return to Africa mural even though the murals themselves are unsigned; the signature is not, as expected, that of Hale Woodruff, but of his studio assistant Robert Neal. In addition, the tacking margins of the murals the areas at the perimeter that were obscured by wood moldings contain extensive passages of color testing that reveal some of Woodruff s working techniques. Though based on comprehensive sketches, the murals were works in progress even after their installation at Talladega College. Changes to the composition made during execution have now become visible to us today due to the increasing translucency of the oil-based paint layers. As oil paint ages, its refractive index increases, rendering it more transparent. This natural aging process allows underlying, once painted-out passages to become visible once more. The most exciting of these discoveries revolves around the Return to Africa. In the lower right corner, lying against the trunk at Cinqué s feet, is an adze, a tool used for squaring up lumber or hollowing out timbers. When the lower molding was removed, we saw that a significant change had been made to the composition after the work s installation. The adze, which begins at the molding line and displays a less-skilled hand in execution, had originally been painted as a long gun with the barrel pointing directly at Cinqué. The butt of the stock, once masked by the molding, is now visible. Additionally, now visible because of the old paint s translucency are the flint lock mechanism, the barrel, and its strapping, all visible through a veil of paint representing the wooden handle of the adze.... Early in my research to prepare for the conservation treatment, I gained an appreciation for the importance of Woodruff s works, their beauty and their place in art history. During the murals removal, it became clear how important these works were to the Talledega community. Woodruff s murals are much more than just decoration, even more than superb examples of the art form: they are intimately tied to the heritage and legacy of the school. At one point, before the removal of the first mural, a student one of many who had convened in the lobby of Savery Library that day pulled me aside and asked a favor. He made me promise that the murals would receive the best of care, that nothing bad would happen to them, and that they would returned in better condition, ready to be seen and enjoyed by future generations of students. Promise kept. 1. In-laboratory consolidation was accomplished using twenty-five percent BEVA 371b in toluene activated with a miniature tacking iron. 2. The initial cleaning system consisted of a two-percent triammonium citrate solution - a solution of citric acid in deionized water adjusted to desired ph using ammonium hydroxide - at a ph of seven on cotton swabs. 3. The initial cleaning was followed by a one-to-one mixture of deionized water and naphtha on cotton swabs. The greasy grime responded well to the mild organic component of the naphtha/ deionized water mixture while the deionized water cleared any remaining citric acid from the initial cleaning. 4. The canvases, though robust, required additional support to remain planar. The murals were adhered to Sunbrella one hundred percent polyester fabric prepared with BEVA 371b on the vacuum hot-table. 5. A twenty four-inch diameter tube was used to support the section of the canvas where the stretcher dropout was removed. Additional strengthening of the lining fabric in the area of the dropout was achieved through the adhesion of 10-Mil Mylar sheeting to the reverse of the lining fabric using BEVA 371b. 6. Tears were mended using Lascaux Textile Welding Powder 5060 (Nylon 12 powder) activated with a miniature tacking iron. Filling was accomplished using Beckers Latexspackel. 7. Retouching was performed using Golden MSA colors. 8. Varnishing was accomplished using five percent solids Paraloid B-72 acrylic resin in toluene and xylenes. The final two Amistad murals, Return to Africa, top, and The Court Scene. 10 Art Conservator Spring 2012 Williamstown Art Conservation Center 11

7 Feature Pinning Down History Insects, America, and the Art of John Hampson By Zoë Samels Each academic year, a second-year student at the Williams College/ Clark Art Institute Graduate Program in the History of Art is awarded the Judith M. Lenett Memorial Fellowship in Art Conservation by the Williamstown Art Conservation Center. The two-semester fellowship provides the student with the opportunity to pursue an interest in American art through the research and conservation of an American art object. This year s Lenett Fellow, Zoë Samels, worked with a collage constructed entirely of entomological specimens, from the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Ms. Samels worked with the guidance of Hélène Gillette-Woodard, head of the Center s objects department. The project culminated in a public lecture and exhibition at the Williams College Museum of Art. The article below was excerpted and edited from that lecture. The tall tale of John Hampson goes something like this. In December of 1906, Hampson, a 70-year-old machinist living in Newark, N.J., was injured after falling out of a moving streetcar. He brought suit against the North Jersey Street Railway Company, seeking $10,000 in damages because, he claimed, his wounds prevented him from hunting butterflies and beetles a hobby that required him to walk forty to fifty miles every day. Neither the veracity nor the verdict of Hampson s supposed lawsuit can be confirmed, but the peculiar project of natural history he left behind evidences his claim of entomological erudition. Over the course of his life, Hampson created a singular series of intricate collages assembled from tens of thousands of insect specimens he d caught himself, each work illustrating a colorful scene of Americana. One of these works, Hampson s General Slocum, was the focus of my Lenett Fellowship during the academic year. The scant information we know about John Hampson comes from a copy of an obituary clipped from an unidentified newspaper, which also contains the only photograph we have of him. According to the article, Hampson was born in Cheshire, England, where he was trained as a machinist. He came to the United States in During the Civil War and not yet an American citizen, Hampson worked in the government navy yards. He lived or stayed in thirteen states picking up an interest in insects along the way until 1877, when he settled in Newark with his family. He worked briefly for Thomas Edison in the inventor s Menlo Park laboratory. When he died in 1923, his collages were found hanging on the walls of his small home in Newark. If the fruits of Hampson s labor were not here in front of us, a description of these works would seem as exaggerated as Paul Bunyan s ox or John Henry s race against the steam-hammer. Over a period of roughly fifty years, he created eleven strange shadowboxes from the bodies of more than 70,000 butterflies, moths, and beetles. Hampson collected these specimens on his aforementioned walks, armed with a net and a cyanide-laced killing jar. It is tempting to frame John Hampson s reinterpretation of familiar American imagery, which ranges from portraits of presidents and war heroes to intricately designed flags and stars, within the constructs of Outsider, Folk, or Self-Taught Art. Certainly the little we know about him his day job as a machinist, the excessive scale of his entomological efforts resists easy artistic categorization. Like many artists whose work is termed Outsider or Self-Taught, Hampson used found materials, drew his subjects from existing visual culture, and kept his works private. I found it most helpful to think about this work as it relates to American folkways not only in art, but also in literature and music. Tall tales, blues songs, quilt patterns these works use the vernacular to give voice to an invisible American experience. Cultural critic Greil Marcus used the term Old, Weird America to describe an early anthology of American folk recordings that served to launch the 1960s folk revival. Hampson s work is much the same. I hoped that a closer look at General Slocum might help me understand Hampson s vision of old, weird America. Hampson s collages piece together their iconic Americana with a kind of entomological pointillism. Though his insect specimens are largely attached intact, the artist did not hesitate to transgress the rules of scientific specimen handling for his own visual ends, often cutting through bodies and wings to get the neat boundaries between shapes that allow him such fine detail. His breakdown of subject matter is similarly fluid: beetles, moths, and butterflies are used for both representational and decorative ends indiscriminately. In all the works, he used the dark thoraxes of insects to create lines that radiate around the central images, infusing them with a rhythmic energy reminiscent of beating insect wings. When I first noticed these lines, I was reminded of Lincoln s famous evocation of the mystic chords of memory that sound from battlefields and soldier s graves, which he believed potent enough to one day rebuild a more perfect Union. Hampson s works express this collective American memory, but the world they envision for the viewer remains mysterious. Above, General Slocum by John Hampson, after treatment. Opposite, Lenett fellow Zoë Samels at work on the insect collage. Hampson s entire oeuvre now resides in the collection of the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Termed Bug Art by the museum s staff, the curious collages came into the Fairbanks collection in 1977 through the estate of the artist s daughter. Seven of these works are currently on display at the museum in two glass-fronted cabinets, sharing the alcove with a giant replica of a horsefly. Three collages: General Slocum, a portrait of George Washington, and an abstract, kaleidoscopic design, are considered too damaged to exhibit. The Fairbanks Museum staff estimate that each collage took the artist three to four years to complete. Hampson s General Slocum shares its basic forms with the commemorative statue of Major General Henry Warner Slocum, erected in 1902 on the battlefield of Gettysburg. The visual parallels between collage and statue are many: in both, the General is on horseback, perched atop a white pedestal bearing an inscription plaque. Hampson also evokes the memorial s placement within Gettysburg s landscape by including a pair of cannons located in the statue s immediate vicinity. Slocum led his Union forces in several battles in the war s Eastern Theatre, as well as in Georgia and the Carolinas. During the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, the young general delayed leading his troops into the bloody skirmish, earning him the derisory nickname Slow Come. His statue s inscription offers a more favorable view on his leadership at Gettysburg, repeating his entreaty to his fellow Union officers that they must Stay and fight it out, as the battle waged on 12 Art Conservator Spring 2012 Williamstown Art Conservation Center 13

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