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CLS: Images in Historic Paintings

Explore two-dimensional art and come away with a new appreciation for paintings and conservation techniques.

Dr. William Robinson

Monday, May 27, 10:30 a.m. | Orchestra Hall
“Vincent van Gogh & Madness:  The Artist Versus the Legend”

What do medical studies tell us about Vincent van Gogh’s mental condition? Do books and films offer new insights into the artist, or do they present a distorted view of his life and creative achievements? Can recent discoveries of his working methods stimulate reconsideration of the relationship between his paintings and his illness?

Dr. William Robinson, former Senior Curator of Modern European Art at the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA), will discuss intriguing intersections between studies of Van Gogh’s paintings, his mental condition and popular perceptions of one of the greatest painters in the history of art.

Robinson was born in France, where his father was serving in the U.S. Air Force. He grew up with constant exposure to museums, historical landmarks and battlefields, including the Normandy beaches and Verdun. When he was 10, his family moved to Bellevue, Nebraska, just south of Omaha, and not surprisingly, the shift from European to American culture was a shock.

For a time, Robinson found an outlet in music and by the time he graduated from college, he had shifted his focus to art history, which he fell in love with from his first class. He then chose to come to Cleveland to accept a fellowship in the joint art history program of Case Western Reserve University and the CMA.

Starting as the protégé of Edward Henning, Chief Curator of Modern Art, Robinson progressively worked his way up from museum fellow to curatorial assistant, associate curator, and eventually to full curator and department head.

Rustin Levenson

Tuesday, May 28, 10:30 a.m. | Orchestra Hall
“Expect the Unexpected, Adventures in Painting Conservation”

With a hands-on relationship with paintings, conservators are sometimes surprised and delighted by insights about the artworks they treat.

This lecture, led by Rustin Levenson, will include a short introduction to conservation treatments and details about some of the unusual discoveries made over the years in the studio. Treatments discussed include The Domes of Yosemite by Albert Bierstadt, The Puzzle of Autumn by Salvador Dali and the Coronation of the Virgin by Sandro Botticelli.

Levenson graduated with a degree in art history from Wellesley College in Massachusetts and was trained in conservation at Harvard University’s Fogg Art Museum.

She worked on the conservation staff of the Canadian Conservation Institute, the National Gallery of Canada and the Metropolitan Museum of Art before opening ArtCare Conservation, with studios in New York City, Miami and Los Angeles. Her studio teams treat paintings from museums and private and corporate collections.

She is co-author of Seeing Through Paintings and several chapters in The Expert Versus the Object and The Conservation of Easel Paintings. In addition to her publications, Levenson lectures extensively to professional groups at universities and to public forums.

She is a Fellow in both the American Institute for Conservation and the International Institute for Conservation. In 2015, she was honored with a Residency at the American Academy in Rome. She recently received recognition from the American Institute for Conservation; Honorary Membership (2021) and the Paintings Award (2023).

Marcia Steele

Wednesday, May 29, 10:30 a.m. | Orchestra Hall
“Andrea del Sarto Sacrifice of Isaac, Technical Research & Comparative Study”

This talk with Marcia Steele compares the materials and techniques of the three versions of Andrea del Sarto ‘s Sacrifice of Isaac from 1527-28. The version at the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) has long been thought to be the first due to its unfinished state. A completed version is located at the Gemäldegalerie in Dresden, Germany. A smaller panel of the same subject is housed at the Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain.

Drawings for various details of the paintings are compared with the paintings. The technique of the Cleveland version will be examined in depth. Infrared images of all three reveal the interrelationship between the three paintings, as well as a surprising discovery in the Dresden painting.

Steele worked in the Conservation Department of the CMA from 1987-2020. After graduating with honors from Wellesley College, her conservation career began with a six-year apprenticeship training at Rustin Levenson’s private studio in New York City. Her duties included working with private collectors and corporate collections as well as institutions including The Guggenheim Museum and The Whitney Museum. Her apprenticeship included further training at the Boissannas studio in Zurich, Switzerland.

In 1985, Steele began her museum career as an Assistant Painting Conservator at The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco where she worked until 1987. She was then hired as Assistant Painting Conservator at the CMA. There, Steele continued her focus on painting conservation through treatment of the collection as well as contributions to special exhibitions, research and lectures.

During her time in Cleveland, she also served as Visiting Painting Conservator at the Gardner Museum in Boston from 2000-2002. Steele served as both Chief Conservator and Interim Chief Conservator during her tenure. She most recently held the position of Senior Conservator of Paintings at the CMA, retiring in 2021.

Her publications and research have focused on artists from the 16th to the 19th century. Among them are Poussin, Vuillard, Picasso, Van Gogh, Fitz Henry Lane, Battista di Biagio Sanguigni, Orazio Gentileschi and Andrea del Sarto.

David Piurek

Thursday, May 30, 10:30 a.m. | Orchestra Hall
“Creating a Period Style Frame for a Cassone Panel”

In this lecture, Cleveland Museum of Art’s Conservation Technician of Paintings & Frames David Piurek discusses the materials and techniques that he used to create a new water gilded frame for an early Renaissance masterwork from the museum’s collection, Giovanni Francesco Toscani’s Panel from a Cassone: The Race of the Palio in the Streets of Florence.

Piurek assists the paintings conservation and Asian paintings conservation labs and is responsible for the frames in the CMA’s collection.

He earned his bachelor’s in painting from the Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida. Following graduation, he took employment at the Ringling Museum of Art in the conservation department, where he worked for 14 years developing his skills with gilded finishes.

In 2012, Piurek accepted the position at the CMA, where he specializes in water gilding and frame restoration.

Dean Yoder

Friday, May 31, 10:30 a.m. | Orchestra Hall
“Caravaggio’s Crucifixion of Saint Andrew: Conservation & Scientific Analysis”

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s Crucifixion of Saint Andrew is a masterpiece of baroque painting and the only altarpiece by the artist in an American museum.

Painted in Naples for the Spanish viceroy, the work was taken to Spain in 1610, where it remained for hundreds of years. The painting was acquired in 1976 by the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA), soon after its rediscovery.

This presentation, led by Dean Yoder, discusses the aesthetic problems created by the previous restoration and the approaches used to solve these issues. Beginning with the unusual diamond weave canvas and concluding with analysis of paint cross sections with UV radiation, SEM-EDS and Raman spectroscopy, the presentation demonstrates the role of science in the study of artworks.

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May 28 - 31, 2024



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