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Subject: Oil painting on leaf supports

Oil painting on leaf supports

From: Caroline Mary Fry <cmfry<-a>
Date: Tuesday, December 9, 2008
We have recently received a series of small oil paintings painted
directly onto leaf supports (gum leaf) from the species white box,
(Eucalyptus albens) which is indigenous to North East Victoria.  The
paintings belong to a regional public gallery.  The leaves are
approximately 14 cm x 10 cm (5 x 4 inches) in dimension.

The paintings were painted by a Russian emigre painter, called
Alfred William Eustace, who worked in North East Victoria around the
goldfields and diggings in mid 19th century (c. 1860's). The query
regards the use of a complete single leaf as a support for a
painting.  During the mid to late 19th century in Australia, a small
but historically significant folk genre emerged using oil painting
on 'leaf' supports produced in Australia.  The paintings mostly
depicted landscape scenes of the 'bush' and coast.  These gum leaf
paintings were produced by both recognised painters and amateur
artists--a 'nationalist' gesture and celebration of the local
landscape--, and later as evocative 'mementos' of home sent to
Australian troops fighting in World War I and later World War II.
Examples of these paintings are held in various institutes in
Australia, such as National Library of Australia, a National Gallery
of Australia.

The leaf supports are in good condition, although discoloured and
brittle.  The oil paint layers are sound, however the natural resin
varnish is quite discoloured.  Very little information is available
on the history or treatment of 'leaf ' paintings as a 'European'
genre.  I would greatly appreciate learning any information
regarding the origin of use of leaves as a support in European genre
or folk art painting, if such information exists.  I am aware that
leaf supports have been commonly used in Asian art, particularly the
usage of palm leaf in Bali and Bohdi leaf in Buddhist art.  I would
be interested in hearing from anyone who has experience in the
treatment and conservation of leaf based painting supports.

Caroline Fry
Painting Conservator

                  Conservation DistList Instance 22:36
                 Distributed: Monday, December 15, 2008
                       Message Id: cdl-22-36-018
Received on Tuesday, 9 December, 2008

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