Repair of a Massively Ripped Painting of Heber C. Kimball, Quality Tear Repair of Artwork … Why is the canvas so brittle?


First of all, a valuable lesson for art collectors: If you collect or own paintings from the 1800’s you are possibly aware that the canvas is extremely brittle or fragile. Its interesting that I have a 400 year old piece of linen canvas in my lab that is as strong as a new canvas today. Why the difference?

In the 1800’s industrialization or mass production of canvas required additives that breakdown the cellulose fibers as it ages by producing acids. So, a painting from the 1800’s is very likely to be very easily ripped when a painting from another time period would only be dented.

This canvas of the painting of Heber C. Kimball was so brittle that you could poke your finger through it. So, when it got a small poked hole in it… and then was put into storage, the small rip quickly grew when something was leaned against it.

A few more things were piled against it and the rip grew and grew. Add insult to injury, water drained into the storage area badly damaging the frame and dripping down the middle of the painting. BTW, canvases from the 1800’s are also notorious for shrinking badly if they get wet.


I hope you found the above video interesting showing professional rip repair in a canvas painting and the quality tear repair of artwork. It can seem a bit like magic to imagine that damage like this can not only be made to vanish but that the art conservation work can last generations into the future. There are two parts of art conservation: 1. The stabilizing of the deterioration and damage (consolidation of flaking and lining) and 2. The painting restoration portion of the work to restore the aesthetic integrity.

Heber C. Kimball was one of the original twelve apostles in the early Church of the Latter Day Saints, and was first counselor to Brigham Young in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon Church) from 1847 until his death in 1868. This painting is a posthumous life sized portrait of Heber C. Kimball, signed and dated 1893 by John Willard Clawson. This history of this painting is presently not known to the author.

The painting is accompanied by a gorgeous 4” period frame with compo iconography of corn and other motifs from Utah. The finish is water and oil gilding.

The artist, John Willard Clawson (1858-1936) Was one of the most successful Utah artists of the late nineteenth century. After completing School in the Utah school system, Clawson studied with great success at the National Academy of Design in New York City, receiving acclaim and awards from his instructors. After a brief period in Utah, Clawson left for Paris, France, to enroll in the famed Academie Julian where he studied under such artists as Constant, Laurens, and Lefebvre. In addition, Clawson studied at Fernand Cormon’s Atelier and was accepted at the Ecole de Beaux Arts. He was one of a select few who received criticism and instruction from Edouard Manet and Claude Monet. While in Europe, he spent nine months studying under Julius Stewart in Venice and a short time studying in England, where he completed several portraits for members of the English Parliament. While he continued to be a financial success throughout his life, Clawson reached his peak as an artist during this time in Europe.

In 1896 Clawson returned to Utah where he opened a studio for a few years before leaving for California, where he established a studio in San Francisco. In 1906, the San Francisco earthquake and fires destroyed much of the city including Clawson’s studio along with $80,000 worth of paintings. He was forced to start over again and left the ruined city of San Francisco for Los Angeles, then for New York City, and finally, back to Southern California. Though Clawson preferred landscapes it apparent that portraits were going to make his financial success. Many famous movie and theater stars in Los Angeles and New York City sought after him to paint their portraits. By 1933, Clawson had made enough money painting portraits of movie and theater stars to retire to Utah for the remainder of his life. Visit the Springville Art Museum website for an interesting article from which these details were taken.

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Mormon Pioneer Settlers Depicted in Historic 1938 WPA Mural


Brigham Young is credited with the unparalleled settling of the West during the great expansion period of US History (according to US History books… not according to Native American’s history, of course).

This Portrait of Brigham Young, done in a live sitting, is in our art conservation laboratory right now being readied for an exhibition at Princeton University

Interestingly, the settling process of “new lands”, towns/cities and commerce routes was done often by inexperienced immigrants looking for new opportunities. The initial settling of the area meant the initial arrival of a few folks… then a trickle of people joined them until a town formed.

This was the case, in the beginning, of Price, Utah in South Central Utah among the red earth table top landscape filled with dinosaur bones. Not long later, however, with the discovery and refinement of coal as a natural resource, the area around Price boomed.

It all began in 1877 when Caleb Rhoades (Rhodes) and Abraham Powell came into the valley to trap and homestead. It was wild country and the story goes that Powell was killed by a bear. But within a couple of years family members of the trappers and other settlers were moving in.

Settling kicked into gear with the beginning of the construction of the Denver and Rio Grand railroad through the valley and Price was set up as a RR station. It was during this industrial development that Bishop George Frandsen established the LDS Church organization in 1882.

Bishop George Frandsen

All the people in the group are actual portraits of the Mormon settlers.

Under the direction of Bishop Frandsen, the townsite was surveyed, The Price Water Company was formed to bring water to the townsite and city building construction began including a church building, a school and a Price City civic building. (1)

In the 1930’s Depression Era WPA City Hall of Price City, there is a remarkable mural that documents the history of this area and includes, prominently, the early LDS congregation. (see short video at end of this article)

The mural is remarkable because, out in the middle of Billy the Kid country one is surprised to see a quality mural… and a big one at that! The panorama historical WPA mural is 4′ high and 200′ feet long and depicts the life of the area’s original pioneers and cowboys… truly a time capsule of the Old West. Renown artist, Lynn Fausett, a native of Price, Utah was just the right person in 1938 to pull together this historically accurate mural of his country.

The Works Progress Administration (the name was changed to the Work Projects Administration a year after it got started) funded a municipal building in Price that was the perfect place for Fausett’s talents and vision for the mural. Based on photos, entries in archives and his own personal experiences, he planned the composition of this historical rendering of his town for the mural.

This really was the far west of cowboys, bandits and pioneers. Our fantasies of the Old West are mostly made up of romantic encounters and full of folklore, novels, movies etc. But back then, Fausett had lived this life among the buildings in this mural and knew these people. This mural is an authentic historical record of actual people (whose names are written below their portraits), buildings, customs and the process of taming the Wild West. The mural is a documentation of the pioneer settlers, the beginnings of society in the newly constructed town and the development of the area and its industries.

Old West Trading Post

From the historical mural in Price Utah

35 years ago my painting conservation career in the USA (I studied and started working in Italy) started in Utah and I’ve known Lynn Fausetts painting style, having worked on the restoration of his paintings previously and looked at many others. And to tell you the truth, I wasn’t previously impressed with his painting style compared to the other Utah Impressionists that came before him.

When I first saw this mural, I was surprised… this mural may have been the masterpiece of his early career. The faces were very well done and reflect feeling and expressions that were quite realistic.

This mural was considered so well done and so historical that it was a main reason why the entire WPA funded building was added to the US Register of Historic Properties, a considerable honor… but then something happened.

Fausett was employed to “touch up” the murals in the 1960s and, as is almost always the case, artists don’t respect the qualities of the earlier work and has to change or update it. This happened on this mural when Fausett repainted most of the faces and much of the composition. The result was a change in style and, in my opinion, a reduction in the quality of the mural.

The result of Fausett’s repainting in oil, today, is a blotchy discoloration of the retouchings as they have aged at a different rate than the original mural. This is especially noticeable in the sky. Touch up of the seams of the canvas glued to the wall are discolored as are many other details.

Entrance lobby to City Hall for Price, Utah with the panorama murals by Lynn Fausett 1938-1941

It is presumed also that he varnished the murals, and likely didn’t clean them first. So, a gray layer is trapped. Then add to that the following 40+ years of grime deposited on the surface and that brings us to todays appearance: considerably muted, flattened depth of field and contrast in the composition and an overall grayish appearance.

Fine Art Conservation Laboratories is honored to have been called and entrusted with the health and art restoration of this historical mural, so important to the City of Price and to the area. We removed the last 40+ years of grime which brightened the painting considerably, without risk to the paint layers. However, we were hesitant to remove the old varnish as, according to preliminary tests, it would be hard to remove without damage to the original paint and would result in disturbing the retouchings that Fausett put on the mural in the 60s thereby opening the proverbial “can of worms” during the cleaning and causing a real mess, even seriously damaging the mural.

Water damage infiltrations have occurred in the last years that have stained the front of the painting in several areas. So, these areas were cleaned. Then whatever was left of the stains and all of the blotchiness of Fausett’s retouchings were glazed and toned to blend in better and not be noticeable. We never do retouching in oils for the very reason now noticeable from Fausett’s 1960s work. All of our materials are conservation grade, chemically stable, reversible materials that will be easily removable without damage to the original painting far into the future.

Our varnishes are also conservation grade and have gone through extensive testing to determine their reversibility and removability, color fastness and compatibility with the work of art. They will not yellow and will always be easy to remove.

In the end, we have stabilized the deterioration of the painting, returned it to its best appearance and protected it for many generations into the future… which should help make some more history. I love my job. It feels like my work is socially conscious!

Click on photo to see short video

(1) Utah Division of State History, Markers and Monuments Database – Carbon Tabernacle/Price River Valley

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in mural restoration, see the other art conservation videos on our YouTube channel at

Scott M. Haskins

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To find out more about Price, Utah go to,_Utah and

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If you would like to know more about what you can do to protect and preserve your original family history items, click on this link for a free copy of Scott M. Haskins book Save Your Stuff – Collection Care Tips, 210 pages with 35 embedded how-to videos.


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New Murals Installed into Redesigned LDS Church History Museum


An exciting event is taking place as I write this; the LDS Church History Museum, located on North Temple and West Temple in Salt Lake City, in undergoing a redesign of all its interior exhibits. The new exhibits include new murals by well know artist Douglas Fryer who has done murals in numerous temples and has a solo featured exhibition in Santa Fe, New Mexico next month in Sept.

Today, we began the installation of the big murals; one 11′ x 25′ and the other 10′ x 15′. The installation is being assisted by History Dept. personnel. Here is a photo of part of our 12 person crew
Installation of mural into museum

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Scott M. Haskins 805 564 3438

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Minerva Teichert Mural – Mural Removal, Art Conservation, Mural Reinstallation, Save a Mural


This video shows the removal of 2 beautiful murals by renown early Mormon woman artist Minerva Teichert from an LDS tabernacle (historic conference center built in 1918) in Montepelier, Idaho. The murals were removed because the demolition for the upgrading of the systems in the building and the toxic materials abatement was going to be extensive. Highly prized, the renovation work could not be started until the murals were safely removed from off the walls and out of the building. This building was in Minerva’s backyard, so to speak, as she lived in the nearby, Cokeville.

On the back of one of the murals was an inscription in Minerva’s handwriting that the murals came from the Connors Hotel in Laramie, Wyoming and were moved to this building by Minerva. I’m supposing the murals may have been painted in the 1930′s and moved to Montpelier in the 1950s/

Inscription on back of Minerva Teichert mural

The mural underwent art conservation treatments at FACL art conservation laboratory and then were reinstalled back into their original location after the building renovation was completed.

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Momon Tabernacle (convention center) in Montpelier Idaho

Momon Tabernacle (convention center) in Montpelier Idaho

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