The Allure of Paper: Conservation

As the paper conservator at the Amon Carter, I oversee the collection of works on paper---totaling nearly 10,000. Part of my job is to ensure that the works of art to be included in a show like The Allure of Paper are stable enough to be placed on exhibit. Once I receive the list of works the curator would like to include in a show, I spring into action. I examine each object closely, looking for problems like flaking paint, weak or torn hinges, tears, or any other problem that would make the piece unsafe to display.

For The Allure of Paper a few works needed conservation treatment: Edward Hopper’s untitled charcoal drawing, John Henry Hill’s small watercolor sketch Nevada Falls, John Abbot’s Cardinal Grosbeak, and Arthur Davies' Certosa Monastery. Most had minor issues that needed to be addressed before they could safely hang in the galleries for four months.

Conservator looking through microscope in the lab.
Using magnification enables me to examine a work closely, as well as make very subtle repairs.

Edward Hopper’s charcoal drawing had several small edge tears and creases, making it vulnerable to further damage. Because the drawing was executed on poor quality paper (newsprint), over time the paper had darkened. Its condition required that light levels be kept low, and it remains covered during non-public hours.

Edward Hopper's charcoal on paper Untitled (Captain Gardner K. Wonson House)
Edward Hopper (1882--1967), Untitled (Captain Gardner K. Wonson House), ca. 1923--28, charcoal on paper, 2004.31

Documentation photographs are taken before and after conservation treatment. Above is the before treatment photograph.

After examining the object, I write up a treatment proposal that the curator and I agree upon. For this piece I repaired the tears with wheat starch paste and thin Japanese paper strips. The repairs secure the tears, stopping them from getting larger.

Condition report for Edward Hopper's charcoal on paper
Treatment proposal for Edward Hopper’s charcoal drawing

Once I’m finished with treatment I write up a report detailing what I’ve done and what materials I used. Each object in our collection has a dedicated file where documentation is kept detailing its history.

In addition, for every piece on the exhibition list I make note of its exhibition history. Works of art on paper are vulnerable to overexposure to light and environmental conditions. To protect the art we limit the lifetime exhibition of a work on paper, keeping it off view in our vaults for years between shows to slow down its inevitable deterioration. We also limit the light levels used in the exhibition. Some works are so vulnerable that for the duration of the show we cover them with custom-fitted drapes to protect them when we are closed to the public.

Conservator lifting cover over Georgia O'Keeffe watercolor.
Georgia O’Keeffe's Light Coming on the Plains No. III (1917) is covered by its custom-fitted drape during non-public hours.

Post written by Jodie Utter, conservator of works on paper

Amon Carter: The First 50 years

Check out our new video exploring the first fifty years of the museum's history. We hope that you will come by to be a part of our next fifty years!

Photographer Jerome Liebling (1924-2011)

Documentary photographer Jerome Liebling has passed away at age 87. Liebling is represented in the Amon Carter's collection by Butterfly Boy, a 1949 portrait of a young boy on a city street, which has been exhibited numerous times since it was acquired by the museum in the 1980s. NYT obit here and a slide show of his work here.

Jerome Liebling, Butterfly Boy, 1949
Jerome Liebling (1924-2011), Butterfly Boy, gelatin silver print, 1949, © Jerome Liebling

Analog to Digital: The North American Indian

Thanks to our IMLS-funded digitization grant, all 700+ plates from the full set of Edward Curtis The North American Indian portfolios acquired by the Amon Carter in 2009 are now available on our online collection search. These plates, created between 1907 and 1930, represent Curtis' life work of traveling and documenting Native American traditions in the early 20th century.

Edward Curtis, Pima Matron, 1907
Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952), Pima Matron from The North American Indian, photogravure, 1907, Purchase with the assistance of an anonymous donor

Edward Curtis, Two Whistles Apsaroke, 1908
Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952), Two Whistles -- Apsaroke from The North American Indian, photogravure, 1908, Purchase with the assistance of an anonymous donor

Edward Curtis, Povi-Tamun Flower Morning, San Ildefonso, 1925
Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952), Povi-Tamun ("Flower Morning") - San Ildefonso from The North American Indian, photogravure, 1925, Purchase with the assistance of an anonymous donor

Give Us Your Best Shot

The Amon Carter houses one of the country’s major collections of American photographs. Now, we want you to submit your own great American photographs of family and friends enjoying the museum! Enter your best photos in our free contest in August, which will be posted on the museum’s Facebook page.

Click here for the complete rules.

Patrons in galleries

Analog to Digital: Interstate Abstraction

One of the great things about working on digitization projects is that you finally get to see so many works that you’d only heard of before. I’ve seen files and database records for nearly every work in the Amon Carter’s collection, but generally only see the images themselves once they are digitized. So until recently, I knew the following three works by title only. Expecting to see a straightforward cityscape, what a happy surprise to see how they actually look.

The following three works – shown here courtesy of our IMLS digitization grant - are by photographer Diane Hopkins-Hughs, who spent several years in Texas and taught at SMU in Dallas. For any readers outside the DFW area, I-30 is the interstate highway that links Fort Worth and Dallas with points to the east and serves as the main connection between the two cities.

[Note that all three works, and many more by this artist, are now available in our online collection search!]

Diane Hopkins-Hughs, I-30 #2, 1969-1970
Diane Hopkins-Hughs, I-30 #2, gelatin silver print, 1969-70, © Diane Hopkins-Hughs

Diane Hopkins-Hughs, Interstate 30, 1971
Diane Hopkins-Hughs, Interstate 30, gelatin silver print, 1971, © Diane Hopkins-Hughs

Diane Hopkins-Hughs, Interstate 30 #7, 1972
Diane Hopkins-Hughs, Interstate 30 #7, gelatin silver print, 1972, © Diane Hopkins-Hughs

Making an Exhibition Picture Perfect

The museum’s Installation Preparation Services (IPS) team, which includes Greg Bahr (Lead Preparator), Steve Price (Preparator), and Les Hofheinz (Carpenter/Asst. Preparator) care for, handle, prepare, and install all of the artwork on display at the Amon Carter. They were essential in the execution of our current special exhibition The Allure of Paper: Watercolors and Drawings from the Collection, playing multiple roles throughout the planning and installation process. Jim Belknap (Installation Manager) determined the budgetary needs for all materials needed for the exhibition, including paint, mats, and frames, and organized the work schedule for all IPS activities.

Works on paper are vulnerable to physical damage; they can be torn, folded, and smudged. IPS ensured that each drawing and watercolor was securely hinged with Japanese paper or mounted using archival photo corners to a mat support before they were matted and framed for display. (Learn more about matting and framing works of art on paper here.)

Months before the exhibition, I met with IPS to select mats and frames for each artwork. Greg and Steve provided invaluable input regarding the appropriate mat colors and sizing for all of the art objects. They also sized and cut all of the mats for virtually every artwork on display, while Les built most of the frames you’ll see in the exhibition.

Steve Price frames a watercolor for the exhibition.
Steve Price frames a watercolor for the exhibition.

Les Hofheinz cleans the glass of a newly framed object.
Les Hofheinz cleans the glass of a newly framed object.

Greg Bahr installs a watercolor in the special exhibition gallery.
Greg Bahr installs a watercolor in the special exhibition gallery.

As curators, we often comment that we have one of the most talented and gifted IPS teams we have ever worked with. Thanks to their tremendous efforts, The Allure of Paper was executed beautifully.

The Allure of Paper: Watercolors and Drawings from the Collection is now open! Drop by the museum anytime we're open to see these works firsthand.

Post written by Shirley Reece-Hughes, assistant curator of paintings and sculpture

Update your feeds!

Just a little note to let everyone out there who subscribes to our blogs' RSS feed know that our URL changed when our new website went live last week. If you access our blogs through your browser, email, Google Reader, or any other RSS feed aggregator, you will need to update your settings or resubscribe to this page:

And if you don't already subscribe to our RSS feed, you should! Just click on the little orange icon at the bottom right side of our Interact, Calendar, and Exhibitions pages to stay completely up-to-date on everything happening here at the Amon Carter. If you have any questions about subscribing to our RSS feed or using the new website, please post them in the comments.

Making Preparations for The Allure of Paper

It's less than two weeks until the opening of the special exhibition The Allure of Paper: Watercolors and Drawings from the Collection, and the museum is busy with preparations! In this installment of our blog series, discover some of what goes on behind-the-scenes as the exhibition moves through the design process.

Exhibition Designer Trang Nguyen plays a critical role in the presentation of every exhibition displayed at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

Exhibition designer working at computer
Exhibition Designer Trang Nguyen hard at work in her office.

Trang’s initial step in planning for any exhibition is to establish an identity for the exhibition's design. As she describes, “I’m a translator because I take the exhibition content that the curator has created and translate it into a visual vocabulary in the galleries.”

In preparing for The Allure of Paper, Trang used the catalogue that accompanies this exhibition as a guideline. She then designed the exhibition's text panels and object labels and worked with me (the curator) to determine the wall colors for the exhibition. Because The Allure of Paper spans almost two hundred years of American art, Trang wanted colors reminiscent of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and chose paint colors from Benjamin Moore’s Historical Color Palette.

Museum staff preparing a gallery
Installation and Preparation Services staff members Les Hofheinz and Greg Bahr carefully prepare a gallery.

Reviewing the checklist for the exhibition---which is a list of all of the artworks to be included---Trang next provides a space assessment to determine how the works of art will fit within the special exhibition galleries. Trang laid out the works of art for this exhibition with me and determined that three walls needed to be added to the galleries.

Exhibition designer printing object labels
Trang printing out object labels for the galleries.

Trang is also responsible for producing all of the object labels, text panels, and any other visual text or images that accompany the exhibition. Trang’s work will undoubtedly ensure an optimal viewing experience for visitors who plan to attend The Allure of Paper exhibition, and we can't wait for you to see it!

Post written by Shirley Reece-Hughes, assistant curator of paintings and sculpture

New Website Coming Soon

Our website is under construction, so there won’t be any blog posts for the next few weeks. We’re busy making it more accessible and user-friendly for visitors. It will showcase our new graphic identity and name, along with a fresh design.

New Design Screen Shot

Please check back soon to see our redesigned website, and save the date for 50 Fest on August 13, a free celebration of our 50th Anniversary with art, bands, food, and fun!