MIRACULOUS HEALINGS REVEALING PAINTERS AND THEIR WORK THROUGH THE LENSE OF RESTORATION THEODOR PALLADY

Sixty years after the passing of painter Theodor Pallady, 8 works classed as part of the national heritage, works which have been researched and restored in the Painting Restoration Laboratory and which will become the object of the exhibition “Theodor Pallady”. The exhibition will be inaugurated at Sutu Palace in the month of December 2016. These works were also part of the retrospective exhibition titled “Theodor Pallady” organized by the Romanian People’s Republic’s Art Museum between June 23rd and August 8th 1956. On the exhibition’s opening day the painter received the title of honored Master of Art. The same year, on August 16th, Pallady passes away.

To Pallady painting was a “journal of existence”, with “much hidden beyond the material surface of the painting”.

Through lab research a part of that which was “hidden” can now be seen.

The “Theodor Pallady” exhibition, part of the exhibitional project “Miraculous Healings” aims to illustrate and restore paintings from the Bucharest Municipality Pinacotheque’s heritage to art lovers, focusing on the works of a great artist who formed his craft towards the end of the 19th century, truly emerging as a representative for 20th century art, both mindful of and anchored in the melting-pot of cultural life, yet profoundly unique through his self-awareness. Following the customs of “Miraculous Healings” exhibitions, the present project presents members of the public with the dialogue between painting and its restauration through the exhibition of the works alongside images which feature definitive elements and moments from the restoration process, revealing information on the artist’s techniques and manner of work, the materials he used.

Theodor Pallady was born on April 24th 1871 in Iaşi, the son of Iancu Pallady and Maria Cantacuzino, in a family which, on the paternal side, had had ties to the families of high Moldavian officials ever since the 17th century, and, on the maternal side, to the great Cantacuzino family. He grew up in Iaşi and on his parents’ domain in Perieni (Tutova). At the age of 12 he was sent to the St. George High School in Bucharest. It was here that he met painter Fidelis Walch, an art professor specialized on drawing at St. George’s and an anatomy professor at the Bucharest School of Medicine.

The rigorous education he had receiced from Walch along with the mindful observation of his uncle Eugen Ghica-Budeşti’s forays into symbolist-influenced art marked the teenaged Theodor. Enrolled at the School of Bridges and Roads Construction on the request of his parents, he relocates at the Dresden University of Technology in 1887, following the encouragement and advice of Fidelis Walch. Understanding his penchant for art, Eugen Ghica-Budeşti guides him towards Ernst Erwin Oehme, an artist academically formed, with influences from the German Romantic School.

In Dresden, during the periods of repose between classes at the University of Technology, he meets the great maestros of European art in the halls of the famous Gemäldegalerie (today known as the Old Masters Picture Gallery in Dresden). He is profoundly impressed by Leonardo da Vinci, viewing him as a model for excellence. It is also in Dresden that he became aware of the Italian maestro’s works, observing reproductions of his masterpieces. It is this experience that causes him to realize his true path in life was art. He decides to put a stop to his engineering studies and, following the advice of Oehme, despite his parents’ protests, he departs for Paris in 1889.

The influence of Maria Cantacuzino, his grandfather’s sister and later on wife of Puvis de Chavannes, within French society was a useful means of entry for Pallady, allowing him access to the Post-Romantic and Symbolist art circles.

He thus begins to expand his knowledge on drawing within the workshop of Édmond Aman-Jean, a French painter who was influenced by symbolist ideas and allegorical themes, with a solid background in the study of Ingres’ art, as the former had been a regular participant at the Salon, a renowned artist who had been awarded several official distinctions. In the workshop he became familiar with Albert Besnard, Élie Delaunay, Gustave Moreau and, last but not least, with Puvis de Chavennes himself, a painter who’s art portrayed “the aspiration towards a new world order, according to Maurice Denis, a dignified representation of the Neo-Traditionalism of the Symbolist movement.

In 1892 he enrolled at the Fine Arts Academy and was allowed to study in the workshop of Professor Gustave Moreau, a symbolist painter who had frequented the workshop of Chassériau during his youth, like his friend Puvis de Chavannes. Henri Matisse, Georges Rouault, Albert Marquet, Henri-Charles Manguin and Charles Camoin also studied in Moreau’s workshop.

For ten years Pallady studied in Paris, oftentimes visiting museums.

All the data he absorbed during his childhood, the information from his teachers, an incipient personal development under the rigourous structure of mathematics, the first steps taken in the field of art, supported by the backbone of German education, the avidity with which he embraced the magnitude of European artistic creation in museums, his evolution as an art understudy during a period of concern, oppositions and counter-oppositions within the Formalist and Impressionist art movements, the fact that he had lived and witnessed the Symbolsit movement that had left its mark on the creations of Pallady’s teachers Aman-Jean, Puvis de Chavannes and Gustave Moreau – all of these helped shape the art produced by Theodor Pallady.

Despite the fact that he experienced and knew the artistic currents of the first half of the 20th century, that he was influenced in his creation and influenced others through his creation, the artist’s creation did not esthetically adhere to any of these movements.

A critical spirit, a creator possessing the highest axiological points of reference, Pallady had an affinity for introspection strengthened by lucid thinking. He was always on the lookout for answers connected with the philosophical issues of balancing materialism and spirituality, at war with time and returning “in search of lost time”. Theodor Pallady stands out as an individual creator within the artistic domain of painting through his cursive, elevated and original work with solid architectural roots. Through his creation, Pallady is a worthy representative of modernism, built on the roof ridge of Classicism.

The pieces exhibited have undergone a through research process focusing on the artist’s technique and the materials he employed. The works exhibited are from several periods. This way we may observe the painter’s changes in attitude and approach, the evolution of Pallady’s beliefs, such as his concept that drawing is the defining part of creation. He believed it drawing was the part that gave strength to color and meaning to the hidden layer, beyond the material surface of the painting subject.

The painting called “After a bath”, oil/cardboard/frame, 145.4×114.8 cm, inv. No. 675, was painted in oil on cardboard specially prepared by the author and then nailed to a wooden frame. A white semi-absorbant surface preparation paste was applied by the author. The colour layer was created by juxtaposed shading with the paintbrush, while keeping the thin colour layer depth under control.

The analysis carried out by ED-XRF spectrometry highlighted the chromatic spectre. He used lead white mixed with earth red for the painting of the flesh, cobalt blue, Prussian blue mixed with red iron oxide and lead white for the sky, viridian green with cobalt blue and yellow ochre for the drapes. The range of violet colors was obtained by mixing red iron oxide with ultramarine blue and lead white. The print on the green drapes, made with 18-20 karat gold leaf is unusual, yet precious, through the natural feel its addition provides to the composition. The subliminal drawing, accentuated in certain areas, is made in burnt shade colours with the paintbrush.

The fact that it is a work of art produced at the turn of the century, paraphrasing the Suzana in the bath theme, as an echo to the Symbolists’ preferences and pursuits, and most definitely to the deep appreciation Pallady held for Renaissance art, which distinguishes itself from the painter’s usual imagery, the painting is clearly one of the artist’s masterpieces through its composition, the way the painting was made, by using gold leaf and last but not least, through its size.

The signature “T Pallady” was done in oil colors, applied on raw color, on the lower left corner, through a mixture of viridian green with burnt shade and lead white.

Taking into account the size and the unfortunate fate of the Bucharest Pinacotheque and its collections as time passed, the cardboard is deformed in a convex shape relative to the frame and the nails that came loose. The water streaks on the back, the dust and grime layers between the frame and the cardboard are a testimony to the causes of the degradation.

The gaps in the painted layer and the scratches on the work’s surface are due to inadequate man-made intervention.

In ultraviolet light it can be seen that the work was varnished. Once the varnish was gone, the varnish gets dimmed as it ages, it becomes opaque and, depending on the mixture, it can display a colored fluorescence ranging from milk yellow, greenish yellow and reddish brown, we could see the fluorescence of the grime set on the painted layer and that of the painted matter distinguished by the pigment fluorescence on the one hand, and by the greater of lesser degree of the paint’s solvent dilution or the addition of oil medium. The more diluted the color, the more violet the fluorescence will be, milky violet hues of the fluorescence not to be confused with the fluorescence due to an intervention by repainting.

This is how, by the lack of varnish, grime settled directly on the painted surface.

If the painter voluntarily left the painting unvarnished as an aesthetic statement, from the conservation point of view as time passes and to protect the artwork for ages, the choice was an unfortunate one. The varnish layer applied to a painting fulfills the role, leaving aesthetics aside, of a protective shell working against the inevitable deposits, difficult to remove when humidity is also involved.

Rods were placed on the margins. When the artwork entered the laboratory, the top rod was missing, and the ones on the sides were broken due to inadequate handling.

On the back, in the upper right corner, there‘s a sticker according to which the work was part of the Theodor Pallady In Retrospect Exhibition at the at the People’s Republic of Romania Art Museum during 23 VI – 8 VIII 1956. Under this sticker, there is an inventory number (675) and, on the same line, leftwards, a strikethrough inventory number (2726).

The treating of the work aimed at consolidating and correcting the frames deformation. Once the deformation has begun, the cardboard will keep the frame’s bend. After the rods were removed from the work’s edges and the grime was cleaned from the back of the work, in between the frame and cardboard, taking into account the generous size and in order to prevent deformation in the center, the artwork was fixed on the frame by applying canvas edges on the back and fixed strips along the frames diagonals.

The grime was removed from the artwork’s surface; a faint varnish was applied to protect it. To keep the unvarnished look the artist aimed for, the varnish was applied by spraying. The gaps and scratches were filled and chromatically integrated.

The artworks “Pot with Flowers”, oil/cardboard, 51×38 cm, inv. 71, “Woman in Yellow”, oil/cardboard, 82×64 cm, inv. 86, “Still life”, oil/canvas/woodboard, 94×79.3 cm, inv. 369, “Nude”, oil/canvas/cardboard, 60.7×49.7 cm, inv. 1351, “Nude with plant”, oil/canvas/ cardboard, 51×37.8 cm, inv. 939068, “Street view – Paris”, oil/cardboard, 68×52.5 cm, inv. 940134, “Still life”, oil/canvas/cardboard, 53×64.4cm, inv. 939087, are the painter’s achievements from different periods of his career, when he had an atelier in Place Dauphine, Paris.

Connecting these works, also including “After bath”, is the fact that they weren’t varnished by the author. The distinction comes from the quantity of painted matter applied to the supporting material in the case of the last one and, especially, to the solvent dilution of the color and a reduction of the oil medium applied in the case of the first ones.

Also, we must keep in mind, that the ultraviolet light, when the varnish is lacking, certain areas of the painting might display a violet fluorescence. This tone, due to several factors of which the dilutant quantity applied by the painter, or the pigment type of a color, must not get confused with the violet of the repainting intervention. The training in correctly reading the information that technology mediates means to observe, accumulate, weigh in and interpret the data.

The infrared reflectography analysis can see more clearly the drawing that categorically defines Pallady’s creation and the changes he made until he finished one of his works.

The work “Pot of Flowers”, oil/cardboard, 51×38 cm, inv. 71, was done in oil colors on pasteboard. It was signed in monogram on the lower right side, in black oil color “TP”. The painted color layer was applied in thin layers directly on the cardboard, without any preparation beforehand, parts of cardboard stayed clear. There are slightly thicker areas, only around the flower heads.

Under ultraviolet light, only the fluorescence of colors can be seen – due to the fact that the work was not varnished. On the artworks surface there is dust and grime.

The analysis carried out by ED – XRF spectrometry highlighted the mineral pigments in the colors. The violet was obtained by mixing ultramarine blue and red iron oxide, the green colors are mixtures of chrome green, viridian, cadmium yellow, yellow iron oxide, and lead white.

On the edges, especially in the lower area, small frays with color layer gaps were found. The pasteboard was fringed and slightly exfoliated on the left side, due to cutting and ripping the painting in the past. The oxidized back displayed a beginning composition with a female character, in the upper area. There are stickers attesting to its provenance (bought by the Bucharest City Picture Gallery – Lascăr Catargiu Boulevard – inventory number 545, participated to the In Retrospect Exhibition held at the People’s Republic of Romania Art Museum in 1956, the Capital City’s People’s Council– inv. 106) and the inventory number “71” is written in blue oil color.

The treatment consisted in removing the dust, the grime, consolidating the edges of the board, filling the gaps, chromatic integration, final varnish for protection and framing it into a new frame, and neutral cardboard for the protection of the artwork’s back side.

“The Woman in Yellow”, oil/cardboard, 82×64 cm, inv. 86, was made in oil colors on canvas glued to pasteboard. It’s signed in the lower left and in the lower right within the painted area with graphite “Tpallady”. The signature on the left is applied on dried paint, and the one on the right is applied on the surface preparation paste slightly nuanced with color marks made with dried up paintbrush.

The white semi-absorbant surface preparation paste is left visible, by the painter, on large surfaces, with the role of color in the composition.

The painted layer is applied with thin brushstrokes, of diluted consistency, with areas that were knife scraped in order to keep an aspect of transparency.

The artwork was painted on the canvas placed on the frame and, after the painting was dry, it was cut on the side areas and on the lower area, and afterwards it was glued on the pasteboard. On the upper side and on the left, the edge of the canvas was used to stabilize the composition, with all the deformation that came with stretching it on the frame. On the lower side, the pasteboard is visible, and the canvas in not parallel to the pasteboard’s edge. The unprepared edges were integrated by the painter through chromatic intervention directly on canvas. Around the corners the canvas was ripped from the pasteboard. In the lower left side, in parallel and on a vertical line, there is a scratch.

Under ultraviolet light, the color’s and surface preparation paste’s fluorescence are showing us that the work has not been varnished.

The ED – XRF spectrometry analysis highlights zinc yellow and chrome green, viridian, zinc white and lead white for the yellow dress. The drawing is done by paintbrush and it’s a mixture of carbon black, natural shade and zinc white. The preparation contains zinc white.

On the artwork’s surface there is dust and grime.

On the back a paper was glued to the whole surface, the paper has scratches and breaking points from the nails used. A sticker shows us that the artwork participated in the In Retrospect Exhibition held at the People’s Republic of Romania Art in 1956 and the inventory number “86” is written in blue oil color.

The artwork was treated by removing the dust, the grime, glueing the canvas in the ripped areas, chromatic integration, applying the final varnish for protection, framing it into a new frame and protecting the back side of the artwork with neutral cardboard.

The work “Still life”, oil/canvas/woodboard, 94×79.3 cm, inv. 369 was made in oil colors on a pre-prepared canva, glued to a woodboard. It’s signed in lower right side on a book “Tpallady” with graphite in raw color.

The canvas was cut off from the frame and glued on the board after the composition was constructed. On the left side and in the upper side, the internal edges of the frame was inprinted on the canvas, and at their joining cracks nad surfacace preparation gaps were seen, due to the cnvas waves made when it was framed. The strips between the internal edges of the frame and the actual margins of the canvas were filled with color, continuing with diluted color relative to the more compact and thicker colors in the original composition. Under ultraviolet light, the fluorescence of the painted matter is visible, due to the absence of varnish, but differently according to pigments, the medium and the thicknes or dilution of the color layer. In the original composition’s area, the painted matter is visibly more consistent.

The ED – XRF spectrometry highlights the yellow iron ochre with lead white for the background ochre, the earthen green, chrome green, viridian, cadmium yellow with citron yellow and zinc white for vegetation, yellow iron ochre mixed with lead white for the yellow in the table, Naples citron yellow, zinc white for orange. The zinc white comes from the white used during preparation. The drawing is a combination of carbon black with natural shade and lead white. Red fluorescence in the areas where yellow are present is a particular aspect to the color / pigments mixture, with very little medium and it could be seen due to the absence of varnish.

In infrared, a guitar is seen in another place within the composition. The artist chose to change its place.

The canvas was ripped in the corners between the canvas and board. In the lower side, scratches and frays with color layer gaps were seen.

It exhibited superficial grime and dust.

The board was slightly deformed. On the back sidem, a parper was glued and it did not entirely cover the surface. A sticker informs us it participated in the In Retrospect Exhibition held at the People’s Republic of Romania Art Museum in 1956 where it was named “Still life with guitar” and the inventory number “369” was written with blue oil color. There is, also, red pencil, blue pencil and graphite writing, with information regarding inventory numbers and size.

The treatment consisted in removing the dust, the superficial grime, the reinforcing of the board’s corners by glueing the canvas to it, the straightening of the board as much as possible, the chromatic integration, applying the final varnish for protection, framing it in a new frame and placing neutral cardboard on the backside for protection.

“Nude”, oil/canvas/cardboard, 60.7×49.7 cm, inv. 1351, the work is signed on the right side on the armchair “Tpallady”, it was painted in oil colors on pre-prepared canvas, laminated on cardboard. The cardboard with the edge covering canvas and with paper glued on the back side, displays the stamp of the materials’ provider (Blanchet-Rue Bonaparte).

The surface preparation paste is semi-absorbant. The painted layer is thinly applied, with slightly thicker areas in certain points. There are areas were the surface preparation paste plays the role of color. The artwork is not varnished. It exhibited dust and grime.

On the back side two strikers were applied: one about the In Retrospect Exhibition held at the People’s Republic of Romania Art in 1956, and another one belonging to the Capital City Peoples’ Council – The Picture Gallery with the inventory number “1336”. The inventory number “1351” is written in blue oil color.

The treatment consisted in removing the dust, the grime, and applying varnish for protection. I was framed in a new frame and the back side is protected with neutral cardboard.

“Nude with plant”, oil/canvas/cardboard, 51×37.8 cm, inv. 939068 was realized in oil colors on a canvas glued to pasteboard. It’s signed on the center-left side by scratching into the yet undried color “Tpallady”.

The canvas is ripped in the corners, fractures, with small painted layer gaps, especially in the lower area corners. The white surface preparation paste is semi-absorbant. The color layer was applied in certain points in thicker layers, and in most of the painting in much diluted paint.

Some of the colors trickled. The surface preparation paste is present in the whole painted layer, playing a chromatic role in the composition. Part of the drawing and ornament in the background are made by scratch drawing.

The work has been varnished. Under ultraviolet light, the artwork exhibited a particular aspect seen also on a small area in “Still life”. The yellow in the robe and in certain areas on the plant’s leaves has a red fluorescence. The ED – XRF spectrometry analysis highlighted the cadmium yellow and Naples yellow in the yellow robe coming together with ivory black and lead minium red with red iron oxide used for the drawing, lead white and zinc white, red iron oxide, lead minium and garanza red for red colors and for green, chrome green, viridian. The surface preparation paste contains a mixture of zinc white with lead white.

The work exhibited dust and grime.

The pasteboard back side, slightly oxidized, displays a lot of provenance stickers (col Dr. Al I. Siligeanu) and participation stickers, aside from the blue oil color inventory number: the In Retrospect Exhibition held at the People’s Republic of Romania Art Museum in 1956, the 1972 “Theodor Pallady” exhibition in Paris – Dr. Al. I. Siligeanu collection, the “Hommage to Th. Pallady” travelling exhibition in 1972 at the People’s Republic of Romania Art Museum, the Iaşi Art Museum, the Craiova Art Museum – Dr. Al. I. Siligeanu collection, the exhibitions held at Musée d’ Art Moderne de la Ville Paris and at the Musée des Beaux-Arts Bordeaux – in 1974, owner Dr. Al. I. Siligeanu. The title on the stickers is “Nude and plant”.

The artwork was treated by removing the dust, the grime, reinforcing the canvas edges by glueing them to the pastboard, chromatic integration, applying varnish to protect it. It was framed in a new frame, and theback side is protected with neutral cardboard.

The work “Street view – Paris”, oil/pasteboard, 68×52.5 cm, inv. 940134 was painted in oil colors on a thin pressedlayer pasteboard. It’s signed “Tpallady” in the lower right with diluted gray oil color. It’s part of a series of still life paintings based on a landscape visible through the windows of his atelier in Place Dauphine, where we worked during 1924 – 1940.

The color layer was applied on cardboard without any preliminary preparation. Pallady used the texture and the color of the pasteboard as color, leaving it unpainted on a vertical strip on the left and in the whole painted area through the brush strokes.

On the lower left, there’s exfoliation. On the margins, the pasteboard is slightly exfoliated, with scratches and frays.

The ED – XRF spectrometry analysis underlines the component pigments of the colors employed: lead white, chrome green, viridian, iron oxide and bone black, chrome yellow, citron yellow with red iron oxide. The absence of zinc white is due to the absence of the surface preparation paste.

The work is not varnished.

When it entered the laboratory, it exhibited dust and grime.

The back side, slightly oxidized, with spray marks, it displays paper marks on the margins due to the glueing of the work in the frame. The current inventory number is repeatedly written in blue and red, and a number “I.G.143351”.

The artwork was treated by removing the dust, the grime, reinforcing the canvas edges by glueing them to the pastboard, chromatic integration, applying varnish to protect it. It was framed in a new frame, and theback side is protected with neutral cardboard.

“Still life”, oil/canvas/cardboard, 53×64.4 cm, inv. 939087, was painted in oil colors on a canvas glued to cardboard. The work is signed in the upper right in vermillion red oil color “T Pallady”. The red color is visible only on the “T”, “P”, partly on “a”, the signature was made by the marks left by the paint brush in raw color.

The canvas was ripped from the cardboard around the edges. The work was not varnished. The painted layer was covered by superficial grime.

The back side is oxydized has a series of participation stickers to several exhibitions: The Exhibition at the People’s Republic of Romania Art Museum, Iaşi Art Museum, Craiova Art Museum “Hommage to Theodor Pallady” – 1972; the Theodor Pallady Exhibition, Paris, 1973; the sticker showing us it was part of the Dr. A. I. Siligeanu collection, and the works was called “Easter bread”. On other stickers it had other titles, like: “Our bread”; “Still life with azyme”; “Still life” and “Black bread”. There are, also, several writings among which the current inventory number “939087” – written in pencil, and in red oil color.

The artwork was treated by reinforcing the canvas at the edges, removing the superficial grime, applying varnish for protection.

Simona Predescu

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