Whistler by the Thames - 1
Whistler by the Thames, 1871
Oil on Canvas
Gift of the Rosenbach Museum and Library
Conserved in 2011 with Support from the Irwin Nat and Marjorie M. Pincus Endowment and the Art Angels
Condition of the Support Prior to Treatment (Spring 2011): The painting was, for the most part, in plane but had slight rolling surface distortions. The canvas had become very brittle. The bottom edge was torn where the canvas bent around the stretcher bar, 3 ½” at right and 5” at left. A stretcher key was wedged between the canvas and the bottom stretcher member, causing a surface bump in the canvas. There was a 2’ vertical tear at 1” form the left edge and 2” from the bottom edge. There was a very heavy grime layer on the reverse.
Condition of the Paint Layer Prior to Treatment (Spring 2011): The bottom 1” of paint had fine, moderately cupped age cracking which was actively flaking. Old paint losses in this area had been inpainted without filling the bare canvas. There was paint loss along the tear and at the edges. There appeared to be old abrasions along the stretcher bar creases. There were some slight abrasions in the figure's chin and in his neck. Brown blotches above the artist's signature looked tantalizingly like the remnants of a removed inscription, but this was not certain.
Conservation Treatment (Summer/Fall 2011): Insecure paint was consolidated with Beva conservation adhesive and set in place with localized heat. The degraded varnish layer was reduced with appropriate cleaning agents. As suspected, it was not possible to completely remove the varnish layers because the paint layer is sensitive to cleaning agents. The paint sensitivity made it clear that significant abrasions had occurred in the sky when someone attempted to clean the painting in the past. Areas of dark spots (revealed underpainting) are not scraping away by the artist, but abrasions from the previous attempt cleaning. Around these dark spots and along stretcher bar creases, surface paint was also abraded. The repaints covering the paint losses along the bottom edge were removed where they overlapped onto original paint. The canvas was removed from the stretcher. Debris and canvas nubs were removed from the reverse of the canvas.The painting was humidified and place face up, under vacuum pressure on the hot table to reduce surface distortions. An insert of canvas was fitted to a hole along the bottom edge, and attached to the painting with Lascaux canvas welding adhesive. An isolating and saturating layer of Beva UVS Finishing Varnish (Regalez) was applied overall. The painting was lined to a new layer of canvas with Beva conservation adhesive, face up, under vacuum pressure on the hot table. The line painting was remounted on the original stretcher. Paint losses were filled with pigmented microcrystalline wax. Paint losses and abrasion were inpainted with pigments in PVA AYAA/AYA (polyvinyl acetate, Union Carbide). A final layer of Beva UVS Finishing varnish was applied overall. The conservation treatment was completed by independent paintings conservator Steven B. Erisoty.