Friday, May 16, 2003
A pleasant discovery happened on a recent visit to a terrific local paper conserver.
I recently acquired, at auction, an excellent engraving by Rookwood artist, engraver and unappreciated urban documentarian Edward Timothy Hurley. The engraving, quite uncharacteristically for Hurley, is a portrait of American Impressionist and Covington, Kentucky native Frank Duveneck. Prior to the sale I saw that this was a superb acid washed as opposed to dri point engraving with an excellent plate mark, a good pencil signature and signed in the plate and a date (1916) in pencil.
The image was also a very good study of Duveneck, made in his lifetime and by a student and contemporary. The image, also, was in obvious need of restoration. None of this prevented a stiff bidding war for ownership.
As I awaited a meeting with the conserver, my study of the frame, matte and backing suggested that the artwork was reframed and resold by a toney local design house in the mid to late 60’s. This local design house was not known for the best archival work in that period and my wait for the conserver was a nervous one.
As it turns out the conservation work is only moderately complicated…some remnants of glue from its first framing and brown paper tape affixed to either side of the document for some forgotten reason long ago will be removed. The document will be acid neutralized, flattened, bleached and humidified to restore its original 1916 appearance and to prolong its life.
Sometimes, when the matting is removed, pleasant surprises can be observed with the niggling damage. You might notice that the paper is hand-crafted. This isn’t the case with Hurley but can happen with the work of an engraving protégé and fellow Rookwood artist Lorinda Epply. Some plates had very limited runs on medium to OK paper, other plates had larger runs on medium to bad (heavy acid content) paper and other plates were almost mass produced with Hurley, needing money, signing some of these in pencil.
This was an engraving of the best quality and when the matte board was removed a lengthy pencil inscription by Hurley was visable for the first time in several decades:
Portrait of Frank Duveneck
By E.T. Hurley-Etcher of Cincinnati, Ohio 1916
Pupil and Friend of Duveneck
Suddenly the years seem to melt away and people dead 50 years and longer, in a brief pencil inscription, flash vividly to life again.
People couldn’t understand my concern with the objects in the Iraq National Museum. Just some old junk, some said, that will show up on Ebay anyway.
Oh if only life were that easy and time and humanity’s passage less corrosive to artistic ephemera. I choose to value our shared past and to do my part to preserve a tiny portion of it as a duty and for the well being of my soul.
Col. Bogdanos says the Iruk head,
3,000 BC, is still missing
I was pleased to watch a press conference about the Iraq National Museum earlier today on C-SPAN with a US soldier whose name has populated past postings, Colonel Matthew Bogdanos. There has been a shortage of information in the world press about the Museum in the last few days and, according to the Colonel’s report, little has happened that would have required reporting. As usual, excepting the Reuters representative, the reporters asking questions evidenced little familiarity with issues regarding the Museum and the missing or stolen pieces of its collection. I would have appreciated a question about restoration of any recovered but damaged items like the broken Golden Harp of Ur but the majority of reporters seemed more interested in an unknowable number value for missing and recovered items.