ARTHUR B. DAVIES'S MOUNTAIN BELOVED OF SPRING: DETERMINING TREATMENT BY RECONSTRUCTING A PAINTING'S HISTORY
NANCY R. POLLAK
3 COMPLETION OF TREATMENT
The evidence gleaned from examination, analysis, and research, while offering facets of the history of Mountain Beloved of Spring, did not produce the desired incontrovertible clue for dating the application of the second green-blue paint layer in the sky. The painting had been removed from its stretcher at one time, and some structural work was undertaken. A varnish between the two paint layers in the sky suggested that the upper paint layer was added some time after the image was initially painted. The Juley photograph seems to confirm this. Davies was known to have reworked some of his paintings, and the many interrelationships between principal characters in the handling of the painting provided several opportunities for Davies to have reworked this one himself. However, other evidence can be interpreted to discredit this conclusion. With no conclusive proof, the decision as to how to continue the treatment rested with the curators of the Addison Gallery. After weighing the information, the curatorial committee decided that the Juley photograph documented the painting as it existed at one time without the overpaint. Noting that the overpaint overlapped other compositional elements and was dull, thick, and grimy, they felt “there was little reason to believe that Davies would have chosen to add a heavy paint layer in only one portion of the painting, that he would have chosen to obscure elements of the composition, and that he would have wanted to distort the texture and overall balance of the work.” The committee concluded that the overpaint was probably done by another hand and authorized its removal (Faxon 1995).
The treatment continued by restretching the painting with an added strip lining of light-weight plain-weave polyester multifilament screening fabric attached to the previous strip lining with an EVA-based film adhesive. Because the earlier strip lining had been trimmed to the edge of the original canvas, it was not useful in restretching. The previous modifications to the stretcher panels were left in place, and the painting was restretched with enough tension so that excessive keying of the stretcher (and possible panel slippage) would be avoided. The remaining varnish in the middle and foreground was removed with 2-propanol and acetone used separately as free solvents. No soluble glaze passages were found during this phase of varnish reduction. In the isolated areas of sensitive paint found during cleaning tests, the varnish was minimally reduced to prevent paint disruption. The overpaint and lower varnish and grime residues in the sky and distant mountains were removed with acetone as a free solvent and in a poultice made with a nonwoven poly(propylene) sorbant pad (manufactured by 3M). This procedure served to dissolve the lower varnish, undercutting the overpaint and removing most of the varnish. As overpaint was removed in the sky, some small areas of abrasion became apparent on high points of the canvas weave. The lower varnish appeared to be considerably yellowed with intermixed grime. In the weave interstices, the grimy varnish was pooled, as seen in the cross section. The most tenacious residues of pooled varnish and overpaint were reduced with 1-methyl-2-pyrrolidinone, cleared with Phillips 66 Soltrol 130 (petroleum distillate). Thus the residues could be reduced quickly without exposing the paint to much abrasive rolling from the cotton swabs.
The lower blue paint did not exhibit any significant damage, except for some minor abrasion and isolated dots of intractable overpaint. Following the brush application of an isolating varnish of Acryloid B-72 (approximately 10% in xylene), these damages were inpainted with Magna Colors (pigments ground in n-butyl methacrylate polymer resin). The painting received a final spray application of B-72 (10% in xylene) to saturate the inpainting and adjust final gloss.