E. Rosco Shrader Condition Question
I was invited to inspect a painting by E. Rosco Shrader (1879-1960) that is part of the painting collection at Hollywood High School in CA Its a real shame that George Stern Fine Arts, the art dealer that put together the retrospective exhibitions for Shrader in the Fall of 2012 and E. Rosco Shrader’s own family represented by the artist’s grandson, Ed Shrader didn’t know about this painting so it could be included in the gorgeous catalog that was produced. If you would like to see a short video on the exhibition see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xa0Edf0dnh8 (give it a THUMBS UP and comment?!).
E. Rosco Shrader was, in case you don’t know, an excellent artist whose influence was felt by 1000′s of artists (some of them became very well known) over several decades as a long standing Director of the Otis Art institute. This meant that he painted for pleasure and personal satisfaction mostly. This lends, I believe, a certain professional and intellectual purity or honesty to his art. This painting was one of his more complicated larger pieces among those that I’ve seen. For those of you that don’t know, Fine Art Conservation Laboratories was the art conservator for the estate which consisted of 100′s of paintings. So, we know paintings by E. Rosco Shrader.
Before my arrival at Hollywood High, I was told this painting was cleaned in 2003 so I wasn’t expecting to see a painting in need of much TLC. As we agreed the school’s representative had taken down the painting off the wall (hanging next to a nice Paul Lauritz) 15 feet high up where it hangs in the library. A nice feature is that the painting still has its original frame (refinish nicely in 2003). The painting is in excellent condition.
As is often the case the previous cleaning may have transfigured the painting from its old dull look and removal of the easy to remove yellowed varnish and grime may have seemed to result in beautiful colors. But sometimes, as is the case on this painting, there is left behind a harder more obstinate layer of discoloration… in this case a harder gray varnish that didn’t come off with the first cleaning. The result is a muted palette compared to what would have been considered Shrader’s intent.
We see this all the time in our lab. Either this hard gray layer is left behind because the person doing the cleaning doesn’t see it or the cost of the more indepth cleaning didn’t fit in the budget. Because there was a color improvement from the more superficial cleaning, then perhaps that was considered good enough. Removing the hard gray layer can often increase the cleaning budget by double… sometimes more if the original colors are sensitive. And, we have all seen paintings that were damaged when the cleaning was pushed too far by an inept person.
This harder underlying layer is often the result of 20 century artists adding linseed oil to their varnish… or coating the painting with linseed oil after they are done. But, let me also throw out a caution: I have seen restorers use the removal of the hard gray varnish layer as an excuse to charge double or triple the appropriate amount even when such a condition doesn’t exist. It is not unreasonable that you ask to see that this layer exists and also that you see a cleaning test that its removal can be done safely.
As a collector, you are the curator and these decisions are yours to make. Best wishes