The museum is joining the commemoration of the Art Academy of Cincinnati’s 150th anniversary with an exhibit of prints and drawings by Art Academy teachers and alumni, and our paper conservator has been helping to get those objects ready for display. One of the artists represented is familiar to museum visitors because of his beautifully carved furniture in the Cincinnati Wing. Benn Pitman’s Design for a Circular Plate is an example of a preparatory drawing the artist created for a carving. While at first glance it looks like a straightforward black ink drawing on paper, under the ink is a photographic print of the design. By printing the design, Pitman was able to make multiple copies for his students. The darker black ink fills in the spaces between the lighter grey lines of the photograph to indicate what part of the design would be cut away and what would remain, and ink and white paint correct imperfections in the photographic lines.
The drawing had a layer of grime across the surface, glue and paper remnants on the front edges where it had been attached to a mount, and several small tears. When the paper conservator removed the grime, the paper brightened up considerably, which increased the contrast between the light and dark areas of the design. While this is only a design and not the final work of art conceived by the artist, it is a lovely drawing that can stand on its own with the other drawings in the exhibit. Art Academy and 150: A Celebration in Drawings and Prints will open February 1 in the Schiff Gallery on the second floor.
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