By Lisa Ellis, Conservator, Sculpture and Decorative Arts
Standing at the corner of McCaul and Dundas streets since 1974, Henry Moore’s monumental sculpture Large Two Forms has become an important part of Toronto’s cultural landscape. Scores of school children, families, local residents and out-of-town visitors enjoy sitting in the large void of the northern element, exploring and enjoying the surfaces and forms and now, perhaps more than ever, posing for photographs and selfies with the bronze giant.
Recently, the sculpture has begun to show its age. Those resting in the forms’ voids have inadvertently polished away the original textured surfaces. Pollution and moisture from the air have reacted with what was once a golden-brown surface, most notably on the top of the forms, turning it into a powdery light green corrosion layer. Worrisome stress cracks had opened up across welded joins and in the larger void where many visitors sat or stood for photos.
With generous funding and support from the Henry Moore Foundation, and after much planning and preparation, a small team of AGO staff members spent a month in the summer of 2015 addressing these issues.The treatment plan consisted of repairing stress cracks and attending to the appearance of the sculpture. Read the rest of this entry »
(photo at right) U.S. Military, Operation Priscilla, taken at the moment of the shockwave, 1957. / Camera Crew at Exact Moment of Shockwave Arrival, Nevada Test Site 1957. Gelatin silver print.
There’s something really amazing inside the AGO’s walls right now: a piece of medical history and the forerunner of technology used today. In our exhibition Camera Atomica, visitors can see a positive image of the first X-ray ever made. Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, a physics professor in Worzburg, Bavaria, created the gelatine silver glass plate image, what would become known as the first “röntgenogram.” It captures the hand of Röntgen’s wife, Anna Bertha, and her wedding ring (the large dark circle). When she saw the image she is said to have exclaimed, “I have seen my death!” Read the rest of this entry »
Installation view: Janice Kerbel, Is Iggy Fatuse, The Human Firefly, from the series Remarkable, 2007
In our exhibition Elevated, Janic Kerbel’s poster work Is Iggy Fatuse, The Human Firefly is impossible to miss: its large scale and bold typography draw visitors and, we’ve noticed, it makes frequent appearances in visitor photos (and the odd #museumselfie).
What visitors may not realize is that they’re standing in front of the work of an artist in the running for one of the world’s most prestigious art prizes: Kerbel is a nominee for the 2015 Turner Prize for her work DOUG (2014), an operatic performance commissioned by The Common Guild at Mitchell Library, Glasgow. We asked Kitty Scott, our curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, to comment on her relationship with Kerbel and her work. Read the rest of this entry »
The AGO collection contains artworks that can fill entire gallery walls, and this summer they’re joined by works on loan for our current exhibition Picturing the Americas: Landscape Painting from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic, featuring dozens of panoramic landscapes. At first glance, details in these vast paintings are overshadowed by gargantuan falls and mountains. These hidden treasures are waiting to be discovered, and so we’ve been exploring works from our collection and the landscapes in Picturing the Americas, in search of some gems. We got up close and personal by zooming in on some works, and below you’ll find cropped images of their small-but-mighty details. In this post, it’s the little things that count. Read the rest of this entry »
Existing programs for seniors have demonstrated that engaging them in meaningful conversations about art, even in cases where cognitive changes are significant, creates a strong sense of well-being for both clients and caregivers. Adding the opportunity for personal creative expression can only enhance the experience, as professionals working in this field of study have learned that practicing creativity:
has been proven to support emotional well-being;
reinforces the brain cells responsible for memory;
cultivates a positive approach to life that enhances the immune system; and
promotes social interactions that helps combat depression.
The Seniors Arts Engagement Program is a three-year pilot at the AGO supported by the Elia Family in which we’re experimenting with art-making, in addition to tours, and we’re working to develop a multigenerational engagement approach. On their visit to the AGO, participants take a tour of the collection, looking at some examples of sculpture, and guides encourage conversation about the artworks. Later, in Galleria Italia, the groups enjoys a light lunch and then a facilitated art-making activity.
In the first year we partnered with the City of Toronto’s Long-Term Care Homes & Services Division, which allowed us to connect with a range of seniors. We’re currently in the second year and phase of this pilot program, and we have Baycrest as an additional partner who will help gather clinical evidence to support creative programming for older adults.
For further information please contact Melissa Smith, Gallery Guide and Adult Education Coordinator, at Melissa_Smith@ago.net or 416-979-6660 ext. 268.
American, mid- to late 19th century (artist), unknown sitter: portrait of woman standing, wearing dark jacket, 1865, ambrotype: sixth plate, case: brown leather with “souvenir” plate, gilt edges and clasp, interior with embossed red velvet pad, 21.12 x 38.55 cm. Anonymous Gift, 2000.
Adventures in Photograph Conservation: Cased photos
A photograph can be printed onto almost any surface. While paper is the most common substrate, others include metal, leather, plastic, cloth, canvas and glass, and many of these are represented in the AGO’s photograph collection. This is the first in a series of blog posts that will describe photographic processes and some of the hurdles a photograph conservator has to overcome while working with them. This instalment will cover the more common cased photographs: daguerreotypes, tintypes and ambrotypes. We’ll get to some of the more unique processes, such as the opaltype and pannotype, in another post.
Henry K. Sheldon, Mr. John Shields, Kingston, 1856, daguerreotype, tinted, 50.8 x 44.96 cm. Purchase with assistance of the Photography Curatorial Committee, 2008.
Examples of these processes are often encased in leather-coated wood or sometimes in what were called “Union Cases,” which were made from a thermoplastic material. While some of the cases were larger, most were small enough to be held in one hand: these were precious, portable objects, often lined with silk or velvet, and many times contained the only existing photograph of an individual.
With the introduction of the daguerreotype in 1839 by Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (1787–1851), the dawn of photography, as it related to the public, had arrived. A daguerreotype is a photograph that consists of a mercury amalgam on a silver electroplated copper plate (right). The distinguishing visual characteristics of a daguerreotype are that the image is on a mirror-like surface of metallic silver: it will appear either positive or negative depending on whether a light or dark surface is being reflected in the image. The image was often also coloured with pigments to give it a more life-like cast. As an example of employment following the development of new technology, many of the artists who did this work were former miniature painters. With the introduction of photography in 1839, the demand for hand-painted miniature portraits declined drastically, and so it become common for photographers to have re-touchers and colourers on staff to apply the pigments.
Unknown American or Canadian, 19th century (artist), seated woman at table, wearing gloves, 1880s, tintype, tinted highlights, 22.36 x 15.96 cm. Anonymous Gift, 2006.
After the daguerreotype’s public introduction and adoption, many scientists started working on other, more economical photographic processes. In 1851, Frederick Scott Archer (1813–1857) introduced the collodion process. Ambrotypes and the tintypes (examples at left) are both collodion-based processes, the former being on glass and the latter on a thin sheet of darkly painted metal, usually tin or a ferrous material. The collodion in these processes is derived from solution of pyroxylin, or gun cotton, dissolved in ether and alcohol. Once coated on a piece of glass or metal, the collodion is sensitized in a solution of silver nitrate and exposed in a camera, and the plate is developed, fixed and allowed to dry. The resulting photograph is then varnished to prevent deterioration of the image. These photographs were much more resilient than daguerreotypes and — though conservators today would warn against it — some people would send their tintypes through the mail without a case, unconcerned about damaging the photograph.
Curious about Conservation?
If you have a burning question about Conservation, leave a comment below. We’ll do our best to give you an answer in an upcoming Conservation Notes post.
Signature Partner of the AGO’s Conservation Program
Picturing the Americas: Landscape Painting from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic takes visitors on a landscape journey through 14 different countries. This pan-American experience is the brainchild of curators Peter John (PJ) Brownlee of the Terra Foundation in the United States, Valéria Piccoli of the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo in Brazil and Georgiana Uhlyarik of the AGO. We spoke to curator Georgiana Uhlyarik about her five-year-long journey with Picturing the Americas.
AGO associate curator of Canadian art and co-curator of Picturing the Americas, Georgiana Uhlyarik