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Behind the Scenes in Conservation: Exploring the Work of Hap Tivey

by Conservation


conservation , behind the scenes , works on paper , paper conservation , prints , Cincinnati artists

Four drawings are on display in Gallery 213 by the American artist Hap Tivey.  Mr. Tivey has worked in painting, sculpture and other media since the 1960s, including producing many works using light in architectural spaces.  This group of abstract drawings is derived from an aerial view of the runways at Cincinnati’s Lunken Airport.  Each drawing has a central geometric design painted in gold surrounded by bright colors that appear to have been painted in a different medium.  When the drawings were given to the museum last year by Carl and Elizabeth Solway, in memory of William Friedlander, we weren’t sure what media the artist had used.  After looking at the drawings under the microscope, and testing the various solubilities with small swabs, the paper conservator had some ideas about what the media were but was unable to make a precise identification.  She contacted the artist who remembered using wax pastels and pigments mixed with acrylic medium.  The metallic gold design does appear to be acrylic.  Wax pastel is not a common medium, so had Mr. Tivey used oil pastels?  A search of pastel manufacturers showed that several companies were making wax pastels in the 1970s and 1980s.  Our drawings were made in 1980.  Pastel formulas have changed since their introduction in the 1920’s, and these particular pastels may have been made with a combination of wax and oil.  With them the artist was able to produce strokes of intense colors that look like they could have been made with a brush.   He also layered and blended passages to have the appearance of oil paint.  With her drawing media research, our paper conservator has collected valuable information that will inform the preservation of the drawings for the future.


Image Credit: 2014.56 Hap Tivey; Landing Strip in Cincinnati Airport, 1980; wax pastel and gold acrylic on paper; Gift of Carl and Elizabeth Solway in memory of William Friedlander