By way of reporting in on an old issue. When the Provo Tabernacle burned, a print of Harry Andersen’s Second Coming painting burned in a mysterious way. We ran a poll to see if people thought it should be saved or not. The response was overwhelmingly “Yes!” to preserve and restore the print in its present appearance. In other words, stabilize and make it presentable in its burned appearance. The LDS History Department decided to save the item in archives but did not allocate any money to have it worked on. I think there may have been “stop-gap” preservation treatments to stabilize the deterioration but nothing is planned to make it presentable. Here’s the short video about saving it from the fire in case you are not remembering what I am talking about: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qygVKHiEF4
Video of Provo City Center Temple completion just released:
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Scott M. Haskins
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.
IF YOU HAVE PAINTINGS FROM THE 1800’S, NOTE THESE IMPORTANT DETAILS!
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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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.
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.
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
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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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
New interesting blog posts are always planned so sign up in the side bar so you can be notified. Leave a comment? Click on the THUMBS UP at the top of the page if you like this subject and blog. Thanks Here’s the video of the installation:
Scott M. Haskins 805 564 3438 firstname.lastname@example.org
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/
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
For more information contact Scott M. Haskins, Art Conservator, 805 564 3438 email@example.com
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There aren’t any murals in the Oakland Temple of the LDS Church but as in all the other temples there are other paintings. I have a little bit of a contention with the choice of art though… how do nondescript landscapes relate to the message and environment of the temple? It seems that the temples are full of mediocre landscapes I wouldn’t even want in my house.
On the other hand, I was surprised to see this 19th century painting of a mother playing happily with her children come to Fine Art Conservation Laboratories for art conservation treatments a couple of months ago. Its a sweet subject matter that, whether you like this type of thing or not, has a message that is in line with the temple… and is very decorative. Its very well done and in a nice frame.
While at FACL, the painting was cleaned, lined to eliminate cracking patterns and given a new coat of varnish. The result was the elimination of the cracks so they would not lead to flaking and so the cracking patterns did not visually interfere with the details of the painting, much better colors were visible in the dark areas of the painting, better depth of field and contrast and there seemed to be a glow in the lighter colors. The results were quite satisfying.
Perhaps someday we’ll get to refinish the decently styled Italiate frame which had been painted by someone with gold paint and looked pretty dismal. And, I’m not sure where it will hang but we are pleased to have been able to contribute to the long life of this beautiful painting for the Lord’s House.
Sign up in the side bar on this blog. We never spam, never sell your info, we stay on subject. Stay tuned for info on the John Scott mural of the Second Coming in the Washington DC temple coming up in Sept.
I finally arrived home let evening with about $3 million worth of art in the back of the Suburban. Today we’ll unleash the power and smarts of the team at the lab, get everything “logged in” evaluated, tested, photographed and organized.
It was an astounding 3 week trip starting in SLC at the Roots Tech Conference, exhibiting as an author and connecting with major companies that want to partner with my new book coming out, “Collection Care Tips – Save Your Stuff” a multi-media $27.00 e-book with videos and other how-to info. There’s going to be a Family History industry wide “product launch” where we will give my book away for free plus other training to preserve and save items that are important to family histories. Its a great book for collectors too.
One of two murals in the historic tabernacle
Then we went to Montpelier, ID to save two murals (oil on canvas glued to the wall) by Minerva Teichert before demolition was begun in the LDS Tabernacle (a conference center) that housed them. One of the murals depicts Pioneers and the other is a very nice rendition of the First Vision of Joseph Smith. The appraisal of the artwork stupefied the administration: they are worth more than the building! An interesting factoid about them is that this was Minerva Teichert’s stomping grounds and her ward building is the town next door, Cokesville. We careful rolled the murals off the walls before massive updating and bringing the building up to code is begun. Among the work will be asbestos and lead materials removal, new electrical and other systems, maybe earthquake retrofitting? We are talking the murals back to our lab for art conservation treatments and then we will reinstall the murals when the building is ready in about 15 months. We will be the last ones to finish our work in the building after everyone else has completed their work. I shot some video that you’ll find interesting. Sign up for blog updates in the side bar so you are notified when I post it.
Removing the murals by Minerva Teichert for safety during building renovations.
On our way back to SLC, we stopped in Ogden Utah to prep a wall in the new LDS Odgen Temple for the installation of the returning mural that I removed from the building several years. Construction will be ready for the reinstallation in May. I love the new style of the temple. “They” are calling it a “Destination Temple.”
Then I spent a day and a half meeting with private clients in the SLC area. A highlight of the visits was with Anthony’s Antiques who gave us a $150,000 painting by Albert Beirstadt of the Wasatch Front painted in about 1868 to work on.
Before leaving Utah, I also met with the director of the Springville Museum of Art, Ms. Rita Wright and we discussed several of the Museum’s needs. We picked up several paintings, very important to the museum’s historical collection, by John Hafen that need some work before they are included in an up coming exhibition. More about these paintings later, also. Stay tuned.
So, now after loading two 9 foot murals rolled around a tube and several other paintings my Suburban is starting to fill up… but I’m not done yet…
Next stop was Las Vegas for Valentine’s Day. Keep in mind that for my sweet wife Diana, V-Day is a more important celebration that practically any other holiday. Well, I’m exaggerating a little bit but you get the idea. So, she met me in LV and we stayed at Caesar’s Palace and went to see Shania Twain in Concert. It was a great performance and she has definitely “Still got it” (the name of her show). It was good entertainment, really fun and romantic.
So, this next ‘event’ is a little contorted to explain… I’ll have to leave out some details. But last March (11 months ago) was my 60th birthday. My sweet wife thought it would be fun to do something different and adventurous although I wasn’t up for swimming the English Channel like Jack LaLane. So she signed me up for driving a Ferrari on a race track (after she made sure my life insurance was paid up). But the race track in the LA area “fizzled out on us” and though we got our money back, I was left with this very cool idea in my head… and NO 60th B-DAY gift!!!!! Well, low and behold, we are leaving Las Vegas to go to St. George and on the way out of town (going North) is a race track inviting and advertising for MY 60th B-DAY GIG!! So we pulled in “to get some info” but in reality, as soon as we pulled off the freeway I was ready to climb into a fast car. It wasn’t long till I had a helmet on and was sitting in a Ferrari Scuderia 510hp with 7 laps of “all I could be” ahead of me. I could go on and on… it was really fun (top speed 115 mph and 1min 3 sec fasted lap) but I’ll cut it off here.
I’m still smiling about my 60th birthday present…
Next stop was St. George, Utah to do emergency maintenance work on the murals within the St. George Temple which took about a week. They were painted by Joseph A.F. Everett in 1939 and are nice, Impressionistic paintings. I won’t into the history of the murals but they needed to have flaking stabilized and some inpainting of paint loss. More is planned in a few years. Here’s a photo off the internet of one of the walls.
Interestingly, I had several desperate phone calls on this trip involving disasters and insurance companies… all in Las Vegas! One of them was about an art gallery that was “blown up” by a gas company gas leak explosion! The other two were about massive water leaks that basically ruined the entire house from both water damage and mold. One of the water damage phone calls was able to get cooperation with their insurance company right away and had me go by the house and pick up, on my way home, a pile of paintings to be cleaned and brought back to “pre-existing conditions.”
So, there you have it, the short version of the last three week’s trip meeting with numerous private collectors, museums, church facilities and “saving the world of Mormon Art.”
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Art conservation questions? Call Scott Haskins 805 564 3438
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Once in our lab, we stabilized the condition of the paint layers which were stressed during the removal and the shipping from England. The stabilization process helps to guarantee that paint will not flake in the future and that cracks will not develop. Any distortions that had formed while being rolled up were relaxed with heat and solvents so the painting lay perfectly flat. The painting was cleaned then any paint losses, damage etc were “inpainted.”
A lesson for you on “inpainting”
Inpainting is a professional art conservation term that denotes very careful and accurate retouching with small brushes with reversible varnish or water based based colors. We never use oil paint. In fact “retouching” is a rather crude term which insinuates disguising damage but not necessarily accurately. “Repainting” or “overpaint” is still further afield from the careful color-matching inpainting techniques professionals employ. If you hear a professional art conservator use the term “retouching” in front of you, he/she is probably dumbing-down the vocabulary for you thinking you won’t know or understand the correct terms.
An interesting choice to be made
An interesting detail about this mural was the decision of how to remount it to a wall. The choices were to 1) re-adhere it directly back on a wall or 2) adhere it to an aluminum honeycomb (and aircraft industry product) panel that could then be mounted to a wall, or 3) to utilize a fairly new technology of mounting it to a semi stiff thick webbing that could be bolted to a wall. Benefits of this last option would allow the artwork to be unbolted and removed if perhaps the building were to be damaged in a fire or an earthquake or if the painting were desired for a major exhibition someplace else. As you might guess, the last option was the one chosen because of its successful implementation on the murals in the North Visitors Center on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah.
North Visitors Center murals by Harry Anderson and Grant Clawson
About the varnishing
The final varnish layers have UV filters contained in them, will not yellow with time and no matter how long it will be until the next time varnish removal may be required, the varnish will come off easily and without damage to the original paint. The choice of varnish also considers which type will best saturate the original colors and make it look its best. Some synthetic varnishes make paintings look like a poster.
Where is the new home of the mural?
The painting has been delivered to Brigham Young University Idaho where it will eventually be displayed in a prominent location although the exact place has not been decided yet. Therefore, it was rolled up on a large diameter tube for storage where it will wait patiently. We look forward to the installation of this wonderful painting and we look forward to the celebration at the inauguration by the many people who love this image and its message who celebrate its saving from demolition.
Stay tuned for a video of the processes (still to be made). Sign up for blog updates in the side margin.
Gerald Griffin from BYU Idaho doing final inspection of art conservation work with Oriana Montmurro, FACL conservator
But here’s a surprise twist…
While we were working on the art conservation treatments of the mural, I got a phone call one day from a member of the Church in Sacramento California. I was dumbfounded when he told me that while he and his wife were on a mission at the Visitors Center of the Hawaiian Temple, demolition, renovation and updating of the Visitor’s Center took place. And before the work got started he with some help ripped off the wall another mural that is the same as this one, only with Asian people depicted, in an attempt to save it. Its been rolled up in his garage for decades but as he remembers it, he assumes it was the same size (7’ x 19.5’) and painted by the same artist (Robert Oliver Skemps) about the same time (1964) as the mural in this article! The owner of the artwork isn’t going to use it or wants it but is willing to give it back to the Church. I believe the process of reacquiring the mural is in the process with the History Department but it is not a smooth or speedy process. Of, course, there are many more questions that come to mind that, presently, don’t have answers. But I have volunteered to go up to Sacramento and take possession of the painting which I assume is in terrible condition given the presumably rough removal techniques, being tightly rolled up and stored in a garage. Stay tuned (sign in – in the right margin) and we’ll let you know as the story breaks!
Rarely seen because its tucked away in an LDS chapel in the town Minerva grew up in, Cokesville Idaho is a large painting 4′ x 8′ that is beautiful and interesting and will be coming to our lab later this month.
This is only a detail of the painting and, as you can see, its a Book of Mormon scene of Jesus Christ appearing in the Americas. I’ll post about it later once its in the lab for art conservation treatments and let you see details of it and tell you what we will do to preserve it. So, stay tuned! Sign up in the side bar to be notified when I add new info to this blog.