Skip to content

Behind the Scenes in Conservation: The Creative Folk Artist

by Conservation


behind the scenes , paintings conservation , Portrait Miniatures , paintings , Folk Art

oval portrait of a woman on a neckalce


A group of portrait miniatures has recently been in the Paper Lab in preparation for a new installation in G213. This miniature of a woman, however, was examined and cleaned so it would look its best when on view in the adjacent gallery beginning May 6. Most of the portrait miniatures in the museum’s collection are watercolor on ivory, but we also have miniatures painted on paper, often by self-taught artists.  A Woman, circa 1810, combines watercolor on paper with fabric to create a collage. The artist, Mary Way, created other miniatures of this type, in which the figures are delicately painted then cut out like a traditional silhouette.  She then dressed the figures; in this case she created a dress from fine white fabric decorated with white paint and a separate belt (probably paper painted with thick paint). The arm was also cut out and slipped under the hem of the sleeve. The figure is attached to a dark fabric back with tiny white flowers painted around the edge. Another miniature by Mary Way in the Museum’s collection is a more traditional watercolor on ivory portrait of a man, which shows that the artist was a talented miniaturist who could competently paint typical portrait miniatures. With this miniature and her other collages, we see what a creative artist she was and how she applied her own ideas to an established art form. See this miniature and other folk art drawings from the Museum’s collection in G212 from May 6 through September 17.


Mary Way (American, b.1769, d.1833), A Woman, circa 1810, watercolor, cut paper and fabric collage on fabric, 2 7/8” x 2 3/8”, The Fleischmann Foundation, L24.2010:46.