Open Conservation Studio
June 4 - August 1, 2010
Have you ever wondered what an art conservator does, or how to
assess the condition of a work of art? The Tufts University Art
Gallery shines a spotlight on these questions this summer in "Open
Conservation Studio," an exhibition on view that lays bare the
conservation assessment process and offers a rare opportunity to see
an art conservator at work. Selected paintings from the Tufts
permanent art collection by Elaine DeKooning, Maude Morgan, Georgy
Kepes, and Grace Hartigan, among others, are on display, with
conservation assessment reports by their side, so that the public
can inspect the works first-hand to see evidence of deterioration
and damage that calls for treatment.
The Tisch Family Gallery is also being used as an active workshop
where paintings are de-fit from their frames and examined by
Cambridge, MA conservator Elizabeth Leto Fulton. Fulton has over 20
years of experience as a paintings conservator and has performed
work on paintings in the collections of Harvard University, the
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
About the Collection:
Tufts University's permanent art collection is to enhance and
enliven the quality of Tufts' visual environment and support the
educational mission of the University by encouraging direct and
daily contact with original works of art through the publicly sited
outdoor Permanent Art Collection and the intra-university
Circulating Art Program.
Due in large part to the interests and donations of the Tufts
community, the Permanent Collection is broad and diverse and has
grown to nearly 2,000 objects since the College was founded in 1854.
The Collection is comprised of works spanning a 3,000-year period
with artifacts from ancient civilizations to contemporary western
A large portion of the Collection is comprised of works that date
from the mid-19th century and include landscapes by New York
Luminists John Kensett and Christopher Pearse Cranch. The early
decades of the twentieth century are represented by paintings such
as Grant Wood's Ph.D. and Alice Neel's Spanish Harlem as well as
several works by Gifford Beal and Russell Cheney. The continued
support of many recent graduates and donors has made mid-century
Abstract Expressionism one of the highlights of the collection
including paintings by John Singer Sargent and Helen Frankenthaler.
Tufts' holdings also include European paintings by renowned artists
such as Emile Bernard, Henry Moore and David Park.
Thanks to its close proximity to the city of Boston, the permanent
collection reflects the rich artistic heritage of the city. Many of
the paintings in the collection were created by artists with ties to
Massachusetts including Jane Stuart, Willard Metcalf, John Frederick
Mulhaupt and George Albert Frost. Tufts has received many of these
works from descendants of the artists, sitters, or original owners.
Conservation Assessment Grant:
Although the Tufts University Art Gallery strongly supports having
works from the Collection exhibited in buildings across the Medford
and Boston campuses, the consequences are such that many works have
been exposed to a multitude of detrimental factors. Temperature and
humidity extremes, excessive light, accidental damage and vandalism
have all contributed to the degradation of many of these fragile
works of art. In the course of conducting a recent physical
inventory of the collection it became evident that many of the
paintings, specifically the works on canvas, have a significant need
for conservation treatment.
Earlier this year the Tufts Art Gallery was awarded a NEH
Preservation Assistance Grant to support a conservation condition
assessment of paintings in the University Permanent Art Collection.
In addition to examining the paintings, Fulton will collaborate with
Gallery staff to create a long-term plan for the preservation of
these objects through recommendations for improvements to storage
facilities and the environmental conditions under which these works
are stored and displayed. In order to raise awareness of basic art
handling techniques among the University community the grant will
also support a Collections Care workshop hosted by Fulton at the
Medford campus for all interested students, faculty and staff. Once
the condition assessments have been carried out the Gallery will
have a written report on the condition of the paintings collection
as a whole, as well as a list of conservation priorities that will
serve as a basis for further grant requests.
- Laura McCarty, Tufts University Collection Registrar
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