Thursday 20 August 2015

A painting not seen by the public for 56 years will go on display at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki this weekend with the opening of Frances Hodgkins: Forgotten Still Life on Saturday 22 August.

Frances Hodgkins, Still Life: Anemones and Hyacinths c1925, was kept in storage for almost 60 years at Auckland Art Gallery.

Although most of the painting was in good repair when it entered the Gallery’s collection in 1956, the upper layer of brown paint around the flowers was flaking severely and no suitable treatment was available.

Over the past six months, however, conservator Genevieve Silvester, the Gallery’s 2015 Marylyn Mayo intern, developed a remedy and restored the work to a condition where it can now be shown in public.

‘The most critical part of the treatment was to stabilise the flaking paint to prevent any further loss,’ said Silvester.

Silvester first researched the type of paint Hodgkins used in order to determine the best type of adhesive to secure the flakes back into place.

Two tiny samples of the brown paint were taken for analysis to Auckland Science Analytical Services at the University of Auckland.

‘The upper brown layer was identified as gouache (a type of paint). The lower brown layer was found to possibly contain shellac (a varnish) and bovine proteins, which suggests the paint layer contains casein, a paint binder made from cow’s milk,’ said Silvester.

In response to this discovery, a suitable adhesive was found and applied to the cracks of the flaking paint.

Silvester used a heated spatula to warm each tiny flake to increase their flexibility before gently pressing them back down into place.                      

‘This meticulous work took more than 100 hours and was achieved under high magnification,’ she said.

Auckland Art Gallery Principal Conservator Sarah Hillary says, ‘the treatment was very challenging, but a remarkable success, and the artwork can finally be shown again to the public’.

The exhibition Frances Hodgkins: Forgotten Still Life explores the high degree of experimentation Hodgkins brought to the subject of still life.

It includes examples of Hodgkins’ still-life work in other media – pencil, watercolour, gouache and oil.

‘Information learned from restoring Still Life: Anemones and Hyacinths will contribute to the Gallery’s larger project about the work of Frances Hodgkins,’ says Hillary. 

Auckland Art Gallery Director, Rhana Devenport, says in 2017 the Gallery plans to launch an important new website dedicated to the works of Frances Hodgkins that reflects the intensive work being undertaken by Curator Mary Kisler and others, locally and internationally, on the artist’s work.

‘The website expands upon the unpublished catalogue raisonné, which is a comprehensive list of all known artworks, gifted to the Gallery by former Director Dr Rodney Wilson.’

‘The online project has resulted in extensive new research, as well as a vast gathering and digitisation of material on the artist including images of works, letters, exhibition catalogues and biographical photographs,’ she says.


About the Auckland Art Gallery Frances Hodgkins catalogue raisonné project:

The Stout Trust, a New Zealand philanthropic charitable trust, is funding Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki's initiative that will see the development of an online catalogue raisonné: a listing of all known artworks by Hodgkins. Launching in 2017, the online resource will provide the most comprehensive information and the latest research on Hodgkins to date, as well as images of the painter and her works sourced from around the world.

Auckland Art Gallery would also like to thank the NZ Decorative and Fine Arts Societies from thank Auckland, Hawkes Bay, Wellington, Nelson and Christchurch for their support of this project.


About Auckland Art Gallery’s Conservation Research Centre:

The conservators at Auckland Art Gallery work to ensure the long-term preservation of the works of art in their care. They are specialists in the conservation of paintings, works on paper, photographs and objects, and are members of the New Zealand Conservators of Cultural Materials (NZCCM) and abide by the NZCCM code of ethics.

Conservation research investigates the physical structure of the artwork – its history and materials, while taking into consideration the intent of the artist. This information can help to identify the causes of deterioration, as well as suitable approaches to care and treatment. It can also contribute to knowledge of the artist's practice and investigations into age and originality.


About the Marylyn Mayo internship:

After Marylyn Mayo’s death in 2002, the Marylyn Mayo Foundation was established by her husband for the benefit of a number of causes, including the Auckland Art Gallery Marylyn Mayo Internships, which encourage training and research for the advancement and wider appreciation of the visual arts.

As a result of this generosity, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki is pleased to offer opportunities for internships at the Gallery as a means of developing the skills of people wishing to pursue a career in art galleries and art museums.

Specific internships are offered at the Gallery each year in particular areas such as: curatorial, education, public programmes, print and electronic publications, communications, research library, audience research and development, conservation, collection management, exhibitions management, imaging, design and exhibitions preparatory work.

The Marylyn Mayo Internships at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamāki offer training and work experience for a minimum of six weeks and a maximum of three months full-time. 

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