Published: May 28, 2002
HARTFORD, CONN. – The Connecticut Historical Society recently received a $50,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to conserve 404 works of art on paper.
Included in the project are 64 individual ink, pencil, charcoal, pastel, crayon and watercolor drawings as well as a collection of 340 ink and pencil drawings by Connecticut’s renowned John Warner Barber. Most of the works of art on paper date to the period 1800-1850, while a small number date to either before 1800 or to the period 1851-1900.
According to Nancy Finlay, curator of graphics, “These drawings include some of the most historically significant and aesthetically engaging works in the graphics collection. In a number of cases, they are in such poor condition that access to them has been restricted in order to preserve them. It will be great to have these important objects available to the public again.”
Among the most important drawings to be treated are two views of houses in Glastonbury by Laurilla Smith (1789-1857). Laurilla, her four sisters and her mother were renowned abolitionists, feminists, artists, musicians and translators. Sarah Perkins’ (1771-1831) pastel portraits of her mother and father were executed when she was 19.
A drawing by the Neapolitan artist Nicolino Calyo (1799-1884) depicts the famous Charter Oak before its fall. The 340 drawings by John Warner Barber (1798-1885) served as preliminary studies for his Connecticut Historical Collections, published in 1836.
Included are views of the Enfield Shaker Village, Newgate Prison, and mill towns such as Waterbury and Collinsville. Taken as a whole, Barber’s drawings provide a valuable record of the landscape and topography of Connecticut during the 1830s.
The single most valuable drawing to be treated is C.B.J. Fevret de Saint-Memin’s (1709-1852) chalk portrait of Connecticut Governor John Cotton Smith.
Conservation work will be conducted by the Williams-town Art Conservation Center in Williamstown, Mass., and will include surface cleaning, residue and stain removal, humidification and remounting, among other conservation procedures.
“The conservation of CHS’s drawings on paper is part of a larger, five-year initiative to devote more than $1 million to the preservation of objets in our museum and library collections,” said executive director David Kahn. “We are grateful to IMLS for their continuing support of CHS’s efforts to conserve and increase access to our collections.”
Most of the John Warner Barber drawings may be viewed in Connecticut History Online (cthistoryonline.org), a digital library collaboration between the Connecticut Historical Society, the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut and Mystic Seaport.
This project was funded by a 1999 National Leadership Grant of more than $330,000 from IMLS. In 2000, IMLS granted $50,000 to CHS for the conservation and treatment of 25 extremely rare and important textiles and costumes dating to the Revolutionary era. A grant in 2001 from IMLS funded conservation of nearly two dozen Nineteenth Century portraits.
Established in Hartford in 1825, the CHS is a nonprofit museum, library and education center that collects, preserves and interprets the history of the diverse people — past and present — who have made Connecticut their home.
The museum’s collections of Connecticut-related furniture, silver, pewter, costumes, paintings, tavern signs and graphic materials are among the largest in existence. The library holds three million manuscripts and nearly 100,0000 volumes, including one of the largest genealogy collections in New England.
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