Damaged Georgia O’Keeffe painting is on display again after conservators spent 1,250 hours and $ 145,000 restoring the piece
SANTA FE, NM – A damaged Georgia O’Keeffe painting is on display again after conservators spent 1,250 hours and $ 145,000 restoring it.
Dale Kronkright, curator at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, called the work the most significant restoration project he has ever worked on.
The results will be on display at the museum until October 10. The painting will then be presented at the San Diego Museum of Art in 2023.
The late American modernist artist painted the piece titled “Spring” in 1948. It was last seen by the public in 2019, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
The painting combines O’Keeffe trademarks such as desert primroses, a large vertebra, and the northern New Mexico mountain peak named Pedernal. Measuring approximately 4 by 7 feet (1.2 meters by 2.1 meters), it was the largest canvas the artist had painted until then.
The water damage was likely caused by a tarantula tunneling through the roof of the artist’s 18th-century adobe house in Abiquiú, northern New Mexico.
Restorers had to repair not only the water damage but also previous restoration work that had failed. The artwork had also been varnished, a process no longer used in conservation.
“The damage is consistent with the fact that it’s stacked against another painting,” Kronkright said. “It’s clear that at one point it was sanded. It was almost as if the paint had been torn off.
O’Keeffe museum curator Ariel Plotek said the work looked like a statement on a new chapter in the artist’s life. The painting of “Spring” coincided with O’Keeffe’s return from New York – where she spent three years settling the estate of her late husband, Alfred Stieglitz – and the renovation of her home in New Mexico.
“The primrose is associated with mourning; bones are linked to death. It’s interpreted as a kind of memorial to Alfred Stieglitz, ”Plotek said.
Plotek said that the fact that O’Keeffe kept the painting for several decades shows that it was important to her.
In letters to her New York gallery owner, Edith Halpert, O’Keeffe wrote that she was unsure if anyone else would like her.
After the water damage, O’Keeffe sent “Spring” to his personal restaurateur in New York City, calling it “unmanageable and difficult to clean.” It was tightened and cleaned. The ultraviolet light showed large sponge marks on the paint, likely attempts by the artist to clean it up, Kronkright said.
The museum acquired the painting when it opened in 1997.
A grant of $ 75,000 from the Bank of America funded part of the restoration work, while the museum’s operating budget paid for the rest.