Margaret Holben Ellis

Chair of the Conservation Center; Eugene Thaw Professor of Paper Conservation; Conservation Consultant, Villa La Pietra

M.A. in Art History and Advanced Certificate in Conservation, Institute of Fine Arts, NYU

In addition to being the Eugene Thaw Professor of Paper Conservation at the Institute of Fine Arts, I also serve as Director of the Thaw Conservation Center at the Morgan Library & Museum. Teaching courses on the hands-on conservation treatment of prints and drawings as well as technical connoisseurship seminars for future art historians at both the graduate and under-graduate level is rewarding and challenging. I have published and lectured on technical issues related to artists ranging from Raphael and Titian to Pollock, Samaras, Dubuffet and Lichtenstein with my research interests in artists’ materials similarly far-ranging. At the moment I am exploring the significance of “paper as part of the picture”, the possibility of applying computer-generated pattern recognition algorithms to the characterization of antique papers, specifically as used in Rembrandt prints, and Jean Dubuffet’s assemblages d’empreintes – specifically, were they created through myth or deliberate manipulation? Historical and Philosophical Issues in the Conservation of Works of Art on Paper, for which I served as volume editor, was published by the Getty Conservation Institute in 2014. My revised edition of The Care of Prints and Drawings will be published in 2016.

Professional and academic awards have included the Caroline and Sheldon Keck Award (2003) for a sustained record of excellence in education, the Rutherford John Gettens Merit Award (1997) in recognition of outstanding service to the profession both conferred by the AIC, a Fellowship from the American Academy in Rome (1994), the first Rome Prize (1994) to be awarded to a conservator, and a scholars residency at the Getty Conservation Institute in 2015. Currently, I am the Vice-President and Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works of Art (AIC), Fellow of the International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (IIC), and Accredited Conservator/Restorer of the International Institute of Conservation (ICON).

Sample courses

The Conservation Treatment of Prints and Drawings.
The Technical Connoisseurship of Works of Art on Paper .
Techniques of Paper Conservation.
Individual Problems in examination and Treatment.

Selected publications

“Myth and Manipulation: Deconstructing and Reconstructing Dubuffet’s Imprints and their Assemblages,”
with Lindsey Tyne, in Jean Dubuffet Drawings.  New York: The Morgan Library & Museum, expected Fall 2017.
“Perilous Message, Precarious Medium – The Pastel Drawings of Lucas Samaras,” with Lindsey Tyne, in Dreams in Dust.  The Morgan Library & Museum, 2017, expected Summer 2017.
“Searching for Paper Moldmates among Rembrandt Prints,” with W.A. Sethares, C.R. Johnson,
and Saira Haqqi, IEEE Signal Processing Magazine: Art Investigation, Vol. 32, #4, July 2015, pp. 28 – 37.
Readings in Conservation: Historical Perspectives in the Conservation of Works of Art on Paper. Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Trust, 2014.
“Roy Lichtenstein’s ‘Mechanical Drawings’ in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” with Lindsey Tyne,  in Roy Lichtenstein: The Black-and-White Drawings, 1961–1968, with Lindsey Tyne.  New York: The Morgan Library & Museum, 2010.
"Materials, Tools, and 'Technics'." In No Limits, Just Edges: Jackson Pollock Paintings on Paper. New York: Deutsche Guggenheim/Guggenheim Museum Publications, 2005.
"Watercolors Today - Dr. Ph. Martin's Synchromatic Transparent Watercolors, Magic Markers and Day-Glo Colors."In Symposium Gekleurd of Verkleurd: VAR, 11 en 12 oktober, 2001, Koninklijke Bibliotheek.Den Hague, Netherlands, 2003.
"Daylight Fluorescent Colors as Artistic Media."In The Broad Spectrum. London: Archetype Books, 2002.
"The History, Use, and Characteristics of Wax-Based Drawing Media." The Paper Conservator 22 (1998): 48-55.
"The Shifting Function of Artists' Fixatives." Journal of the American Institute for Conservation 35, no. 3 (Fall/Winter 1996): 239-254.
"Drawings in Fibre-Tipped Pen - New Conservation Challenges." Modern Works, Modern Problems?, 114-121. London: The Institute of Paper Conservation, 1994.

Selected honors

Getty Conservation Institute Guest Scholar Residency, 2015  To compare the writings with the
methods and materials of Jean Dubuffet.
Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Principle investigator, 2011 – 2016  Library and Archive Conservation
Volume Editor, Readings in Paper Conservation, The Getty Conservation Institute, in press.
Sheldon and Caroline Keck Award, 2003. In recognition of a sustained record of excellence in the education and training of conservation professionals, American Institute for Conservation of Historic and artistic Works.
Rutherford John Gettens Award, 1997. In recognition of outstanding Service to the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works.
American Academy in Rome, Fellowship in Conservation and Historic Preservation, 1994. To revise and expand The Care of Prints and Drawings.
Chapter Author, Caring for Your Collections, The National Committee to Save America's Cultural Collections, New York: Abrams, 1992.