| In The Lab

Paintings Conservation

The paintings curriculum allows students to pursue their interest in Old Master paintings, paintings on canvas, and modern and contemporary paintings and painted surfaces. Every paintings major takes at least one class in the Kress Paintings Conservation program. Subsequent foundation courses expose students to the structural treatment of canvas paintings, the different approaches to damages such as tear repair, flattening of distorted supports, humidity treatments, consolidation of paint and ground layers, strip lining, the preparation of the lining canvas, lining reversals and re-stretching, as well as cleaning and inpainting techniques. The procedures learned and/or demonstrated depend on the condition of the particular paintings available.

In order to accommodate the growing interest in the conservation of modern and contemporary paintings, courses have been added that take advantage of the abundance of collections and resources in New York City. Students have treated pictures by established artists, such as Yayoi Kusama, Andy Warhol, Helen Frankenthaler, Will Barnet, Rammellzee, and Esteban Vicente, just to name a few. We are very fortunate to have close connections with the Grey Art Gallery of NYU, which has works from the late 19th through 20th centuries and is particularly strong in mid-century modern, as well as the collections and professionals at MoMA, the Whitney, and Guggenheim Museums. Students learn about the techniques and materials that might be used to treat unvarnished paintings and are introduced to the often-unpredictable nature of modern paints.

Students at the advanced level also have the opportunity to create their own individualized coursework. With the guidance of a supervising instructor and the approval of the Chairman, students can work in other museums or private labs in the city, which can expose them to an even wider range of paintings and conservation problems.

Kress Program in Paintings Conservation

With generous support from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the Kress Paintings Program offers a unique and unparalleled experience/practice in the conservation of Old Master paintings. The Kress Program (as it is informally known) focuses on the cleaning, inpainting, and thorough technical analysis of selected works from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. The Collection includes over 1,000 Italian paintings held in more than 90 institutions in 33 states, primarily from the 13th to early 19th centuries. Nowhere else in the U.S. conservation graduate programs can students learn from such a distinguished and unmatched collection of Old Master paintings.

Dianne Dwyer Modestini, Research Professor in Paintings Conservation, and Shan Kuang, Kress Fellow in Paintings Conservation, provide advanced instruction in the treatment of these museum-quality Old Master paintings. Generally, the paintings come to us from collections that are housed in regional galleries and other institutions without resident conservation departments. Each picture is carefully selected for its suitability as a student project. The more advanced the student, the more challenging the conservation problems the pictures present. Students carry out a thorough examination and materials analysis of each painting prior to its treatment. Paintings with more complicated needs are worked on by the instructors and serve an additional purpose as demonstrations of how to formulate and execute particularly demanding treatments. The close proximity and active interest of art historians from the Institute of Fine Arts, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and other institutions nationwide, enhances and informs the treatments, providing new information about attribution, workshop practice, painting technique, original display, and later alterations. Over 150 Kress Collection paintings have been examined and/or treated at the Center since the inception of the pilot program in 1989.

The Kress Program in Paintings Conservation has also supported publications in the field of Italian paintings history, technology, and conservation treatment.