When one thing leads to another
You know how easy it is for one project to grow into another . . . and another . . . and another? Maybe you mow the lawn and then you realize that the garden needs weeding, and before you know it you’ve re-landscaped the backyard (or at least it feels like it). Well, that happened at the Virginia Historical Society this summer but on a much more exciting level.
You may already know that the VHS sells copies of items in our collection. A small selection is sold through the Museum Shop, but copies of almost anything in the VHS collection can be specially ordered. What you probably don’t know is that we also sell select images through the Bridgeman Art Library, an image licensing superstore that represents thousands of museums, artists, and collectors across the world. Because Bridgeman has such an enormous selection of images, it is a go-to destination for advertisers, publishers, set designers, greeting card companies, and anyone who needs to illustrate a project.
Early this summer Bridgeman was contacted by a big-name publisher who saw VHS’s Barn and Cattle painting by Pierre Daura and wanted to use it on the cover of a reprint of an early twentieth-century American classic novel. The publisher wanted to know if it would be alright if they made a minor alteration to the digital image to clear a little space for the title of the book.
Because of this special request, Bridgeman contacted the VHS to ask our permission. The VHS co-owns the copyright on this painting with the artist’s daughter, Martha Daura, so we contacted her to get her input on the idea. As you might imagine we were all thrilled to have this tempera painting reprinted on a modern book—whether they had to do a little digital mountain top removal or not. Permission granted!
Not long after that I got a call from Ms. Daura saying that upon closer look at the image it appeared that the painting was showing its age and suffering from some staining. I agreed as I held my breath and hoped that this wouldn’t break our deal with the publisher. Just the opposite happened. Ms. Daura and the Daura Foundation offered to sponsor the conservation of the painting. What a wonderful surprise!
The painting was sent to local paper conservators, Wendy Cowan and Mary Studt, for treatment. Barn and Cattle just recently returned to the VHS and the results are impressive. The staining, particularly in the sky and along the right edge, has been removed.
I never expected such a wonderful chain of events. The publisher got its cover; the painting got some overdue TLC; and Martha Daura will see her father’s painting receive some much deserved attention. It’s a win-win-win situation! The only downside is that the publishing world moves faster than the rest of us and therefore the book will be printed with the pre-conservation image.
In the near future we hope to show similarly remarkable before and after pictures of the conservation of Charles Hoffbauer’s Four Seasons of the Confederacy murals. Thanks to a generous grant through the Save America’s Treasures program, treatment of these murals began this summer. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by the Virginia Historical Society and peek into the mural gallery. You may be able to see the conservators at work. They are making good progress.
Meg M. Eastman is the photographer and digital collections manager at the Virginia Historical Society.
UPDATE: To learn which classic novel is being reprinted with Barn and Cattle and to sneak a peek at the cover, check out this article from the Bridgeman Art Library.