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Behind the Scenes in Conservation: Cleansing the palette

by Conservation

11/12/2020

Frank Duveneck , CAMConservation , paintings conservation , palette , palette knife

In the past few years our paintings conservator has treated many works by Frank Duveneck.  The paintings needed to be looking their best for our upcoming exhibition, Frank Duveneck: American Master.

But one overlooked item was a large paint palette used by the famed Cincinnati artist.  A heavy layer of grime covered the surface of the thin wood panel and the remains of paint.  The paint had been deposited around the outer edge of the palette, allowing Duveneck to daub easily with his brush or palette knife while he braced the inner curver against his body.  Most of the paint had been thinned down by use, but a few colors remained as dried, raised swirls of pure pigment. 

Cleaning revealed a wide range of colors around the edge, and a large patch of white paint more centered near the thumb hole.  Numerous scrape marks, made by the artist’s palette knife, were also made more visible.

The back of the palette has some random swipes from paint transfer.  But more importantly, there’s a later wooden strip that covers a thin crack in the woodgrain.  The mend is quite old and has stopped the crack on the front from growing.  The craftsman-like repair shows that Duveneck valued the large and well-balanced palette. 

Be sure to look for the palette when Frank Duveneck: American Master opens on December 18, 2020.