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The Conservation Department works with all departments at the Gallery to ensure the long-term care of the collection. The department recognizes the importance of preventive conservation and recommends, develops, and institutes measures to ensure appropriate conditions for storage, transport, and display.
Cynthia Schwarz (left), Assistant Conservator of Paintings, and former conservation fellow Meaghan Monaghan (right) working on nineteenth-century lunettes by Harry Siddons Mowbray
Working in collaboration with curatorial staff, the department undertakes appropriate conservation procedures on individual objects to the highest possible standards in accordance with the Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. Conservators examine and analyze objects in the collection to inform treatment methods and to further teaching, scholarship, and research. Conservation treatments avoid compromising future research potential of objects. Conservators investigate materials and techniques using techniques such as microscopy, x-radiography, x-ray fluorescence, and infrared reflectography. More advanced methods of analysis are coordinated with the Center for Conservation and Preservation at Yale’s West Campus Collections Center and other laboratories. Examination and treatment documentation is thorough and stored in formats that ensure long-term preservation. The department partakes fully in the Gallery’s mission to teach and disseminate knowledge. Courses in conservation, connoisseurship, and technical art history are taught using the Gallery’s collection and facilities.
The Conservation Department has worked diligently over the last four years to examine and treat more than a thousand objects and paintings, including newly acquired collections, for display in the renovated, climate-controlled, and reinstalled spaces of Street Hall, the Old Yale Art Gallery building, and the Kahn building. Many of these works have never been seen at Yale or have been off view for decades. Old favorites like the Société Anonyme Collection were also examined and presented in the best condition possible.
Collaborating with curatorial, collections, exhibitions, visual resources, and education staff and assisted by conservation fellows, interns, and technicians, teams of paintings and objects conservators have recently completed numerous major conservation campaigns, including work on the Huntington Mansion lunettes and ceiling paintings, the Dura-Europos Christian paintings, the Gerasa city mosaic, and several early Italian panel paintings. Yale’s renowned collection of American decorative arts, sculpture, and paintings was reassessed, and two eighteenth-century Connecticut rooms were reconstructed. More recent works representing European Impressionism and modern and contemporary American paintings and sculpture also received attention. Increased numbers of outdoor sculpture and works in new media presented new conservation challenges.
In addition, staff members completed treatment on several works for the reinstallation: a third-century A.D. horse panoply and a painted Roman shield depicting a war god, both from Dura-Europos; Matteo di Giovanni’s Hercules Slaying Antaeus (ca. 1470); il Garofalo’s The Conversion of Saint Paul (ca. 1325–35); Anthony van Dyck’s Madonna and Child with Music-Making Angels (ca. 1630); and Jackson Pollock’s Burning Landscape (1943).
Conservators have developed and employed innovative methods such as 3D digital scanning, multispectral imaging, computer numeric controlled (CNC) devices, and new composite materials for lightweight structural support. Research results have been shared with international colleagues at conferences and meetings in Paris, Marseilles, Amsterdam, Helsinki, Vienna, Istanbul, Damascus, and Meknes, Morocco.
Meet the Conservators
Ian McClureIan McClure, the Susan Morse Hilles Chief Conservator, is a graduate of Bristol University and Edinburgh University. While a curator in the Fine Art Department at Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum, he trained as a paintings conservator and was appointed Head of Paintings Conservation in 1978. He became Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum’s Hamilton Kerr Institute at the University of Cambridge in 1983 and Assistant Director for Conservation at the Fitzwilliam Museum in 2004. Appointed Chief Conservator at the Yale University Art Gallery and Yale Center for British Art in July 2008, he has been working under the direction of Yale’s Deputy Provost for the Arts and with the Head of Preservation at the Yale University Library to plan and develop a new conservation facility at the University’s West Campus and for which he was named Director for the Center for Conservation and Preservation in 2012. He teaches The Technical Examination of Art for the Department of the History of Art and the Kress Summer Teachers Institute in Technical Art History.
Carol SnowCarol Snow, Deputy Chief Conservator and the Alan J. Dworsky Senior Conservator of Objects, is a graduate of Skidmore College, in Saratoga Springs, New York, and the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation. Prior to joining the Conservation Department in September 2008, she worked at the Walters Art Museum, in Baltimore, and then as a conservator in private practice, primarily for museums in the greater Boston area. As an objects conservator, she has treated a wide range of materials, from ancient bronzes to modern plastics. She has also worked on archaeological projects around the Mediterranean and received a Fulbright Scholarship to work in Turkey. Research interests include technical analysis of fabrication techniques, copies, and forgeries. She lectures for The Technical Examination of Art for the Department of the History of Art and at the Yale School of Art.
Theresa Fairbanks HarrisTheresa Fairbanks Harris, Senior Conservator of Works of Art on Paper, earned a B.A. in Art History and Studio Art from Yale University. She earned a M.S. in Art Conservation with a major in Paper Conservation and minor in Photograph Conservation the Winterthur/University of Delaware Art Program in Art Conservation, with an Advanced Certificate in Conservation from the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, in Paper Conservation. She lectures frequently on conservation and artists’ materials and techniques and teaches conservation and connoisseurship at Yale.
Irma PasseriIrma Passeri, Associate Conservator of Paintings, received her training at the conservation school of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, in Florence, Italy, where she received her degree in the Conservation of Easel Paintings in 1998. After working in the laboratory of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, Irma was invited by the Yale University Art Gallery in 2001 to restore the large dossal depicting the Virgin and Child enthroned with saints Leonard and Peter by the Master of the Magdalene. Two years later she was asked to restore the Portrait of Alessandro de Medici by Pontormo at the Philadelphia Art Museum. In 2004 she returned to the Gallery to join the conservation staff full-time. She has published articles on materials and techniques of Italian paintings and on Italian approaches to the restoration treatment of loss compensation. She lectures for The Technical Examination of Art for the Department of the History of Art and the Kress Summer Teachers Institute in Technical Art History.
Anne Turner GunnisonAnne Turner Gunnison, Assistant Conservator of Objects, graduated with a B.A. in art history from Stanford University and received a M.A. in Principles of Conservation and a M.S. in Conservation for Archaeology and Museums from the Institute of Archaeology, University College, London. She worked as a postgraduate fellow at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian before joining the staff at the Yale University Art Gallery in 2010. Her current research interests cover a wide range of materials and cultures, from ancient Roman painted shields to contemporary time-based media. Anne is also interested in development of noninvasive conservation methodologies. She lectures for the course Technical Examination of Art for the Department of the History of Art and at the Kress Summer Teachers Institute in Technical Art History.
Cynthia SchwarzCynthia Schwarz, Assistant Conservator of Paintings, studied painting at the Rhode Island School of Design, in Providence, and painting conservation at the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation. She held internships at the Balboa Art Conservation Center, in Spain; the Château de Parentignat, in Auvergne, France; and with private conservators before joining the staff at Yale in 2008. Her current research interests include the conservation of 19th-century American murals, the structural treatment of canvas paintings, and how advances in microbiology can aid in materials identification in conservation. She lectures for The Technical Examination of Art for the Department of the History of Art and the Kress Summer Teachers Institute in Technical Art History.
AICThe American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works
IICThe International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works
AATA OnlineAbstracts of international conservation literature
AMIENArt Materials Information and Education Network
BCINBibliographic Database of the Conservation Information Network
CAMEOConservation and Art Material Encyclopedia Online