Cleaning Sargent

I never tire of watching years of grime come off the surface of a painting. I’ve seen it many times, but it’s still magic. I dropped by the conservation lab last week to check up on the beehive of activity–Noelle showed me an intriguing little painting by John Singer Sargent that she’s been cleaning, in preparation for its installation in the new building. (John Singer Sargent, The Flight Into Egypt, c. 1877-79, Oil on canvas, from the Bequest of Joseph F. McCrindle.) Sargent is best known for large portraits of elite society, ladies in fine gowns described with bravura brushwork. Here’s an early work–smaller, simpler, but already teeming with ambition and loose brushwork–where a single stroke can define a downcast figure. Of course, that stroke packs even more punch when it’s cleaned and restored to its original condition…

One Comment

  1. Rick Pardue
    Posted July 17, 2009 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Noelle Ocon is one of the ‘hidden treasures’ of the NCMA. I’m glad you gave her some exposure. Perhaps you can revisit Noelle and the Sargent under her care and show us the finished ‘product’ as a preview of those never-before seen artworks that will debut in the new museum.

    This brief episode was such a tease. Like Chad, I could watch conservation activities for hours.

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