True Colors Restored
André Derain’s The Turning Road, L’Estaque—one of the most popular in the MFAH collections—was not on display for nearly two years. From 2003 to 2005, the museum’s paintings conservators worked to restore the monumental painting to a state closer to the artist’s original intent.
Over its lifetime, the painting had lost some of its vibrancy due to the addition of a resin varnish that dulled with time; a layer of grime and dirt; and the results of cleaning and conservation campaigns carried out by previous owners. All of these factors detracted from Derain’s bright, joyous color palette, a hallmark of the Fauve style in which he worked. MFAH visitors can now see the finished work with the colors originally chosen by the artist.
A Gift of Conservation
In a worldwide search, a pair of exquisite17th-century Japanese screens in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston collection was chosen for conservation by experts at the Association for Conservation of National Treasures in Kyushu, Japan. The selection by the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo was part of the Japanese government’s multi-decade efforts, known as “The Cooperative Program for the Conservation of Japanese Art Objects”, to conserve and to showcase its country’s national artistic treasures. Depicting Japan’s ancient Hie Sannō festival that originated in 1072, the twelve-panel screens are crafted from ink, color and gold on gilded paper, with fabric surround and decorative paper backing on a wooden lattice framework.
The screens were transported to the Kyushu National Museum in April, 2007. The year-long conservation process entailed treating the paint layer for pigment deterioration, removing old lining and mending paper, applying new lining and toning in losses. The restored paintings were mounted onto a newly constructed wooden framework, bordered with custom-dyed and hand-woven gold brocade, decorated with hand-printed paper on the back, and finished with new lacquer wooden strips and original metal ornaments. The screens returned to Houston in late 2008 to be featured in the MFAH exhibition Art Unfolded: The Gift of Conservation from Japan, which highlighted the painstaking restoration of these magnificent examples of Japanese artistry.