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Behind the Scenes in Conservation: Cleaning a Recent Gift

by Conservation


conservation , paintings conservation , Elizabeth Nourse , varnish removal

Elizabeth Nourse’s Head of a Bedoin Woman in conservation


This very small 9 ½ x 5 ½ inch painting on wood panel is by Cincinnati artist Elizabeth Nourse (1859-1938).  It’s a recent gift to the museum and it’s in the paintings conservation studio for varnish removal.  As this photo shows, at the upper right corner the varnish being removed with a cotton swab is discolored to a deep yellow.  It’s likely that the additional deep brown grime being removed with the varnish is the result of the painting being present around cigarette smoking over a long period of time.  Fortunately the varnish protected the painting and the nicotine has done no damage to the surface.  After cleaning the painting will possess a much cooler overall red tone and a fresh coat of non-yellowing varnish will protect it.


Image Credit: 

Elizabeth Nourse (American, 1859–1938), Head of a Bedoin Woman  (Tête bédoine), 1897, oil on wood panel, Gift of Mary Alice Heekin Burke, 15/16.33