Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), The White Tower (also known as Buildings and Street Scene), c. 1940-42; watercolor on paper mounted on board, 30 x 22 ½ inches; Burchfield Penney Art Center, Gift of Peter C. Andrews in memory of Joan K. Andrews, 2017
Watercolor Conservation by Ben Stevens
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
This past month I have become a patron of the Burchfield Penny Art Center. If you asked me six months ago what was inside the art center I had no idea. The more familiar I become with the center, the more appreciation I have for its function. The Burchfield Penny is an amazing place that supports education and artistic creativity and should be held in the highest regard.
Now that I have got you excited about the center, I would like to shift my focus to an important issue that is easily over looked. After I began to realize how special the collection is, I became more and more interested in the conservation of the art; specifically watercolors. What makes watercolors unique is the makeup of the paint. Many watercolor paints are made up ground pigments mixed with gum Arabic. When paint is made up of mostly organic material it is extremely sensitive to light, humidity, and oxygen.
Let’s talk about my intention for this blog. Originally I was going to go in depth into the many ways watercolors are preserved and repaired. After giving this much thought, I decided it would be much more beneficial to hit on two main points I want people to take away. First, I think it is very important for people to recognize the amount of work that’s involved with the preservation of watercolor paintings. I feel very fortunate because of the efforts of many; my children and grandchildren will be able to view these watercolors close to their original form.
The second piece of pertinent information is a few things the collectors can do to lengthen the life of their watercolor paintings. To preserve a watercolor, you need to store the painting in a dark vacuum sealed enclosure. What good is art if we can’t enjoy it? The painting should be kept out of direct light as much as possible. Use only enough light to adequately view the piece. Also the art should be stored in somewhat of a controlled climate. Watercolors can expand and contract with major fluctuation in temperature. By keeping it at a regulated temperature, it will lengthen the life span of the painting. Please do your part to ensure the future for the rest of us to enjoy the artworks for years to come.
Ben Stevens, Sargent in the US ARMY and Graduate Student. I come from a very diverse background. I grew up in a small town outside Albany, NY. I split my Undergraduate Degree between Oklahoma State and Buffalo State College. I have been to almost a dozen different countries with Iraq being my least favorite. I currently have a Bachelor’s Degree in Technology Education and I am obtaining my Master Degree in the same discipline. Currently I work for a local Charter School designing the curriculum for a Boat Building Design and Production program. Thanks for reading my post and I hope to write again soon.