This collection will showcase conservation projects at the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery. Each object record is accompanied by images documenting the work prior to conservation, select stages of the treatment process, and the work after conservation. Projects underway include the treatment of the gallery's collection of Asian paintings, the plaster Shakespeare reliefs on Scripps' campus, and a 14th century wood and polychrome sculpture of St. Michael.
This collection is launched in conjunction with Scripps' new major in art conservation, a field that fully embraces the interdisciplinary approach of education at the Claremont Colleges. Art conservation majors are required to take courses in studio art, art history, anthropology, archaeology, and chemistry. Please see the department page for more information.
In contemporary conservation practice, every step of the treatment process is reversible, with the goal of stabilization, not restoration. Close examination of a conserved object will reveal the work of the conservator; for the intention is not to restore the artwork to appear new, but to prevent further deterioration, and thus stabilize it for exhibition and teaching purposes. From six feet back, the museum viewer sees the work as a cohesive whole; from six inches, a future conservator can easily discern the work's previous treatment.
Fourteen Asian scroll paintings are currently available in this collection with many more to follow. Please check back periodically as the collection will be updated upon the completion of each project.
Generous grants by The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) have funded the conservation of the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery's collection of Asian paintings. After the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Scripps owns the second largest collection of Asian paintings in Southern California available to the public. The majority of the collection is comprised of late imperial Chinese scroll paintings, but also includes examples of Japanese and Korean works.
In East Asian painting tradition, works are mounted on silk as a handscroll or vertical hanging scroll. When not on display, they are rolled up and stored in a custom-sized box. In the 1920s, American collectors and conservators began cutting the paintings out of the scroll format and remounting them on wooden stretcher frames in the mistaken belief that storing the paintings as flat panels would prove to be less stressful to the painting than rolling and unrolling. Unfortunately, the flat panel format leaves the painting permanently exposed and thus increases the risk of damage.
Many of the Asian paintings in the Williamson Gallery entered the collection in this flat panel format and have subsequently suffered water damage, tearing, paint loss, cracking, and other condition concerns. Having secured grants from NEA and IMLS, the gallery contracted the conservation work to Kyoto-based painting conservator Sekichi Hisaji, who is honored in Japan as a Living National Treasure.
Under Mr. Sekichi's treatment plan, the paintings were removed from the wooden panels and surface cleaned. New and aged wheat starch paste was used as an adhesive and the paint layer was consolidated with highly adhesive yet reversible animal skin glue. The old silk mounting and old lining papers were removed and replaced with handmade Japanese paper and new silk mounting and reassembled in their original scroll format. The silk mounting fabrics were custom-woven in Japan to Mr. Sekichi's specifications regarding color and pattern; the style of silk and end knobs was chosen at his discretion with an eye toward enhancing and complementing the painting. Every area of loss was filled in with mending silk shaped to exactly match the missing area; when appropriate, the mending silk was artificially aged through gamma radiation to match the strength and tonality of the primary support. Each painting was returned in a custom-made paulownia wood storage box.
Please direct specific inquiries to the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery.
Additional information can be found on the gallery's conservation page.