Authority on Art Restoration Refutes Statement of Yale Instructor That Sargent Paintings Are in Danger of Decay
In the opinion of Charles Durham, restorer of works of art, who is associated with the new Fogg Art Museum, the many paintings of John Singer Sargent which now belong to Harvard and in fact the very large majority of all his works are in little danger of the early disintegration promised them according to D. V. Thompson Jr. '22, Instructor in Art at Yale.
Mr. Thompson has stated that all the works of Sargent and many of those of Whistler will son be valueless because of serious cracking or fading of the paints used by the artists.
It was Mr. Durham who taught the practical side of renovation of pictures damaged by time and poor treatment to Mr. Thompson when the latter was an Instructor in art at Harvard.
"Some or Sargent's paintings have cracked somewhat," he said, "but this can be prevented if proper care is taken in hanging and transporting the canvases. Mr. Sargent was careful not only in his artistic technique but also in mixing his oils. As painters always have done, he experimented sometimes with various unorthodox methods and pigments. He was very careful in working out his sketches. From this great care, however, arose his single technical fault, for in order to keep the outline workable from day to day, he could use paints which dried very slowly. Then, when the sketch finally suited him, he would coat it over with French quick-drying oil. This oil is really a lacquer which dries out itself very quickly, but does not affect the paints lying beneath it. If such a painting is subjected to rough handling or sudden changes of temperature it is more liable to develop cracks than one all of whose constituents dry at the same speed.
"Some of Sargent's paintings which were brought here for an exhibition some time ago developed cracks when they were unrolled. Treated however, to make them pliable, they suffered no ill effects from this slight damage."