This just came in the lab this morning. A very nice portrait of a Japanese American from 1944 in oil. Why it would be trimmed of its edges in such an ugly manner can only be explained by the painting being pulled from its frame, cut unceremoniously off its stretcher bars then rolled up and a hurried departure. Was the owner fleeing a natural disaster? Or maybe it was the social difficulties for Japanese Americans in 1944 when the USA confined American Citizens to concentration camps. In that desperate time, people fled with few possessions, stashed stuff in storage for, hopefully, later retrieval. We have done a lot of work for the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles over the years and they tell a heroic compelling story. (http://www.janm.org).
We’ve mentioned before what happens when paintings are rolled up. What happens is not at all like Hollywood shows (…like stealing the Rembrandt in Entrapment with Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta Jones). We’ve seem other paintings come into our care that were also rolled up and smuggled out in desperate times (see post on Russian Portraits). This painting has light flaking and has been lucky that more original paint hasn’t been lost. But some paintings react violently to being rolled up (see previous post). But the cracking patterns on this painting are very dissfiguring and unstable. Unless something is done, more paint will be lost with very little abuse.
I love working on these types of projects… rich in history and beautiful in quality to think about. There is something in this example for everyone to learn: take care of your stuff!
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