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Thursday, June 1 • 10:00am - 10:30am
(Book & Paper) Challenging the Myths Surrounding Paul Gauguin’s “Little Marvels”

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"It was a fact that Gauguin turned everything that fell into his hands – clay, wood, metal and so forth – into little marvels.” --Ambroise Vollard, from Recollections of a Picture Dealer.

We are all familiar with alluring tales of an artist's "muted” palette, the "golden” patina imparted to prints and drawings by their underlying sheet tone, or the importance ascribed to a particular paper's "enhanced texture.” In this way, the effects of aging are recast as conscious artistic choices bolstered by theoretical aesthetic underpinnings that ignore evidence to suggest that certain beloved works of art may have appeared whiter and brighter when they were first produced. These canonized art historical descriptions can take on mythic proportions and propagate misinterpretation, but they may not reflect the most current understanding of an artist's materials and techniques. Only in recent decades has there been a new effort in art historical scholarship to situate artworks within the continuum of time and space; to consider their physical properties as organic and inorganic materials that alter with age, exposure to light, and mistreatment. This talk will present a number of graphic works within Paul Gauguin's production that have been misread in the past. Careful study, scientific analysis, and insightful re-colorizations augment conservation treatment decisions to present many of the artist's sketches, wood-block prints and transfer drawings anew. Treatments in which discoloration products are washed away and twentieth-century mounts are removed lend themselves to new, and more accurate, observations on Gauguin's process and the results he attained when using unconventional materials and methods to achieve his aesthetic goals. Our research was carried out as part of an ambitious multi-year technical study of the Art Institute of Chicago's holdings of over 200 graphic works, 8 paintings and 3 sculptures by Gauguin, in anticipation of the museum's online scholarly collection catalogue (launched in November 2016). Art historians and conservation scientists partnered with us to present a richer and more accurate picture of Gauguin's production, taking into consideration the findings of our technical studies and the results of our treatments, incorporating them into their descriptive analyses and commentary on the artist's works in various media. The exhibition, Paul Gauguin: Artist as Alchemist, organized by the Art Institute and the Musée d'Orsay, celebrates this collaborative effort and will focus on the artist's response to materials and process, resulting in what the dealer and art collector Ambroise Vollard called the artist's "little marvels,” and will draw upon all of the new research into Gauguin's working methods.

avatar for Mary Broadway, [PA]

Mary Broadway, [PA]

Associate Conservator of Prints and Drawings, Art Institute of Chicago
Mary Broadway is Associate Conservator of Prints and Drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago. Since joining the Institute in 2014, she has studied and treated a range of works on paper from Old Master prints to Modern and Contemporary drawings. The primary focus of her research and... Read More →

avatar for Harriet K. Stratis-[PA]

Harriet K. Stratis-[PA]

Stratis Fine Art Conservation LLC, Art Institute of Chicago (Retired)
Harriet Stratis is a paper conservator and technical art historian. In 2017, after 30 years as a museum professional, she established a private practice and is focussed on consulting for museums and private collectors to carry out technical research and/or conservation treatments... Read More →

Thursday June 1, 2017 10:00am - 10:30am CDT
Regency A-B Ballroom Level, West Tower