Friday, August 17, 2007


The most interesting job in the world

Yesterday and Tuesday I attended lectures by Rustin Levinson, president of Rustin Levenson Art Conservation Associates. She received her conservation training at Harvard University's Fogg Art Museum and worked at the National Gallery of Canada and the Metropolitan Museum of Art before beginning a private conservation practice. She has studios in Florida and New York City, and summers in Lakeside. Couldn't get better than that. I know just the young lady from Columbus, a recent college grad with an art background, who should look into an apprenticeship with this woman.

On Tuesday she showed photos of damaged art and what can be done about it. She explained the tools of her work--ultraviolet light to detect over painting, infrared light for under drawing, radiography, x-ray, cross section samples, evidence from the painter's records like letters, notes or sketches, notes on the back of paintings, and the artist if still alive. She also briefly went over supports, grounds and paint, including the odd materials some artists use, which make restoration so difficult (mayonnaise, house paint, wax).

On Thursday she showed us examples, before and after, of 33 of her 2006-2007 projects. It was an amazing list of artists and projects, ranging from the Tom Loftin Johnson mural in the mess hall at West Point, to a Maxfield Parrish mural, Old King Cole in the St. Regis Hotel in NY, to a DeKooning to Salvador Dali. One interesting story she told of a project was repairing damage to a watercolor called "Sugaring off" in Vermont by a Gruelle dated 1954. It was done for a mural, but no one has been able to locate the mural! I think she said the artist is a brother of Johnny Gruelle who created Raggedy Ann.

Rusti has co-authored a book, "Seeing through Paintings," Yale, 2000, and has chapters in "The expert versus the object" ed. by Ronald D. Spencer, Oxford, 2004 and "Tiffany Chapel at the Morse Museum" Winter Park, 2002. It would definitely be worth a trip to Florida to see the Morse Museum of American Art. She also writes articles on conservation at the Chubb Collectors web site.

No comments: