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Behind the Scenes in Conservation: Mary Cassatt

by Conservation


behind the scenes , conservation , paintings conservation , American Painting , Mary Cassatt

Mary Cassatt’s Baby in Dark Blue Suit halfway through cleaning


‘Round about Mother’s Day our paintings conservator started cleaning our painting by Mary Cassatt.  It was such a striking transformation she stopped to take this “During treatment” image for our files.  Long overdue for varnish removal, Mother and Child had apparently not been fully cleaned since it came into the collection almost ninety years ago.  The discolored varnish dulls the bright colors of the painting and flattens the illusion of depth in the unfinished scene.  The grime and aged varnish have been removed with organic chemical solvents from the right half of the painting, but not the left.  Note also that the varnish remains on the signature at the lower right.  This area will be cleaned under the microscope as a cautionary measure, in case the signature happens to be more sensitive to solvents.  The painting is going out on loan but once it returns, be sure to check out its bright new look.


Image Credit: Mary Cassatt (American, b. 1844, d. 1926), Baby in Dark Blue Suit, Looking Over His Mother’s Shoulder, circa 1889, oil on canvas, 28 3/4 x 23 5/8 in. (73.1 x 60 cm), Cincinnati Art Museum, John J. Emery Fund, 1928.222.