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CURRENT COLUMN

Seeing in Different Ways: A Liz Magor Backpack Project
Seeing in Different Ways:
A Liz Magor Backpack Project

Why Paper Discolours (Part 2)
Why Paper Discolours (Part 2)

Why Paper Discolours (Part 1)
Why Paper Discolours (Part 1)

Mending a Tear in an Aboriginal Drum
Mending a Tear in an Aboriginal Drum

Distortions and Dimensional Changes
in Paper (Part 3)
Distortions and Dimensional Changes
in Paper (Part 3)


Distortions and Dimensional Changes
in Paper (Part 2)


Distortions and Dimensional Changes
in Paper (Part 1)

After treatment
Oscar Cahén: Innovative Conservation
for an Innovative Artist

Structural
Rigid Water Gels: New Treatment Options for Paper Conservators

Structural
Structural Remedies for Canvas Paintings

Digital
Organizing and Preserving Collections - Part 4: Digital-based Material

Photos
Organizing and Preserving Collections - Part 3: Photo-based Material

Organizing and Preserving Collections - Part 2: Paper-based Material

First Steps
Organizing and Preserving Collections - Part 1: The First Steps

Natural Dyes
The Use of Natural Dyes in Textile Conservation

Butterfly
A Relocation Project

Challenges of Preserving Contemporary Artwork

Preserve Your Investment through Art Conservation

A Project Completed: Heritage Preserved

Old and New Methods for Cleaning Paintings

I Can See Clearly Now – Or Can I? Part 2

I Can See Clearly Now – Or Can I?

The E.J. Hughes Mural: An Expanded Project

Is She or Is She Not an Emily

Treating Art with Sensitive Media

Malaspina Mural: An Update

For the Artist: Testing Your Materials

Conservator as Art Historian

Alum Sizing and the Art of W.J. Phillips

Treatment of an Elizabeth Keith Wood Block Print

Structural Treatment of an Emily Carr

The Treatment of a Monumental Wall Hanging

Changing Images

Preserving a Rare Record

Gold Leaf: Imitation and Genuine

The Case Against Canvas Backings

Heritage Colours: Research Discovers Original Colours

Lighting Your Art: Balancing Seeing and Protecting

The Double-Sided Emily Carr Painting

Choosing a Period Picture Frame

How to Identify a Picture Frame

Stretching Canvas and Restretching Artwork

Mounting Textiles

Aging Paintings:
Some Causes and Effects

Chine Collé Prints

What's Your Favourite Color?

Backing Removals

Rips, Holes and Tears

Filling in the Gaps

DIY – Preventative Care of Paintings

Frame it Right

Fire, Water and Smoke-Damaged Paintings

Inherent Vice

Saturated Problems:
A Water-Damaged Painting

Moldy Paper

Conserving Time

Conserving Paper: Dos and Don'ts

Repair of Textiles

Conserving Wood

Rescuing Endangered Murals

Repairing Acid-Matte Burn

Art Services & Materials
Exhibition Openings & Events


Conservation Corner Back

A Conservation Project:
The Double-sided Emily Carr Painting

by Cheryle Harrison
Painting Conservator

“…Pictures should be inspired by nature, but made in the soul of the artist, it is the soul of the individual that counts.” – Emily Carr, 1912

This article features Emily Carr’s painting, Arbutus Tree, a landscape with a prominent image of a sculptural tree on a promontory overlooking the ocean with blue skies and pink-toned billowing clouds. Arbutus Tree is signed by the artist and painted circa 1913-1920. The vibrant French Fauvist colours of this coastal landscape reflect the influence of her European training and speaks of an experienced, developing artist.

Emily Carr, Arbutus Tree
Emily Carr, Arbutus Tree (circa 1913-1920), oil on canvas

Reverse side of Arbutus Tree
Reverse side of Arbutus Tree

Conservation treatment revealed a portrait
Conservation treatment revealed a portrait by Emily Carr, circa 1890-1893

On the verso side of this landscape was a painted over image, making it a double-sided painting. Sweeping applications of thin and thick black colour were used to randomly cover the portrait, leaving the nose and lips of the underlying portrait slightly discernable. The portrait was painted first, and after a time the artwork was detached from its stretcher, turned over, re-stretched and the landscape painted. The painting was recently sold at a Toronto auction, after hanging for decades on the wall of a cottage in Quebec.The owners were unaware of the obscured painting on the back until the auctioneer, David Heffel, brought it to their attention.

Conservation expertise includes creating custom solutions and materials, such as gels, for the controlled cleaning and treatment of an artwork. Gels resemble a clear, thickened jelly substance that may include a solvent, detergent or other materials. Carefully using small swabs and magnification, the black overpaint was thinned away from the original paint layers of the portrait and slowly, a nose appeared, and then fleshy tones developed into a face. Familiar brushstrokes and rhythmic patterns used in the shaping of the face and the rest of the painting reflect the expressive qualities found in Emily Carr’s future artwork. As the image emerged, I savoured being the first to view this portrait in over a century.

This painted image is believed to be the earliest of Emily Carr’s portraits in oil paint, circa 1890-1893 and painted when she was about 22 years old. The uncovered painting is of a young woman with dark hair, wearing a soft cream-coloured cloak, and gazing upward with hands clasped together as if in prayer. The identity of the young woman has created some debate as to whether it is an early self-portrait, or perhaps Emily’s sister, Elizabeth. A confirmed identity of the young woman remains a mystery.

This double-sided artwork offers a unique opportunity to compare two different periods in Emily Carr’s artistic history.

For more information visit the FACTS (Fine Art Care and Treatment Standards) website at www.artfacts.org.

Last issue: Choosing a Period Picture Frame
Next issue: Lighting Your Art

 Fri, Feb 1, 2008