Fakes and Forgeries Essay 1

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Jones 1Hannah JonesJanuary 29, 2014AH 103E, Dr. David A ScottAssignment One

A Study of Craquelure at the Hammer

What follows is a case study of the craquelure found on paintings on display at the Hammer Museum. Paintings were chosen from the Hammer's permanent collection for the visibility of their craquelure and ease of photographing those effects. Craquelure are cracks and crevices that form in the layers of paint, size, lacquer, and/or varnish during chemical or physical processes as a painting ages (Zilberglyt n.d.). The exact cause of a craquelure network is difficult to pinpoint because of the chemical complexity of these layers and the many factors that contribute to cracking. For example, Changes in humidity affect the size, canvas, or wood through swelling and contraction, causing cracks in the paint layers (Karpowicz 1990). Although both panel and canvas are affected by humidity changes, only canvas is affected by rolling, while panel by the wood grain. Artists affect the craquelure pattern with the materials they choose, which is why there are regional similarities and why an artist's own paintings are similar. Additionally, Canvas type, oils, glazes, all affect the crack pattern. Of course damage caused by blunt force causes craquelure to form, but this is often noticeable for the spiral pattern on the canvas.Although there have been various attempts to map patterns based on the nature of the proteins in size (Karpowicz 1990) or using a computer program (Bucklow 1999) those efforts have not been hugely successful because of the complex nature of crack networks, both visually and in the ways that they can form. Scientific analysis (as well as connoisseurship) is important in establishing the veracity of a painting (Caple 2000, 80). In other words, it is difficult to map these networks, but fairly easy to tell when a network is incorrect. In the case of craquelure, fake cracks are obvious to a trained eye when not done correctly. False cracks might be merely painted on or not go all the way to the ground, like in Wigfield's case study (1998). Forgers have developed more sophisticated techniques such as rolling. Aging with craquelure, size, sugar paste have been attempted, but can be picked up through scientific examination or very good connoisseurship (Craddock 2009).

Fig. 1 Jean-Honor Fragonard. The Education of the Virgin. 1748-52. Hammer Museum. Fig. 2 Rembrandt Harmensz, Van Rijn. Juno. ca. 1662-65. Hammer Museum Jean-Honor Fragonard's French work, The Education of the Virgin, was painted with oil on panel (Fig. 1). Fragonard painted in the 18th century in a Rococo style. He primarily worked in France, but also traveled to Italy to study. The Education of the Virgin was painted early on in his career. This painting exhibits horizontal primary cracks equidistant and parallel about 1/4" apart. They curve slightly, following the grain of the wood panel. The secondary cracks are small and resemble rectangular webbing and exists perpendicular to the wood grain. In Bucklow's article, he identified French work as having a random craquelure network, but that was because he was only examining works on canvas, not works on panel like this one (1999).In Rembrandt's Dutch work, Juno, done with oil on canvas the pattern is completely different(Fig. 2). Juno was painted towards the end of his career Here the primary cracks on the lighter colored flesh area of Juno vary in island size and overall pattern. Yet, there is a pattern of parallel, regular, secondary cracks running laterally, just as in Fragonard's work. There do not seem to be craquelure on the darker areas of his painting, but they might just be very difficult see because of Rembrandt's darker color choice. Rembrandt is known for layering darker colors, so the pigment and binders used may have been different and therefore may have affected the craquelure pattern.

Fig. 3 Honor Daumier. The Lawyers. 1860. Hammer Museum. Fig. 4 Honor Daumier. The Holy Water Sprinklet. n.d. Hammer Museum.

In Honor Daumier's French work, The Lawyers, he chose to paint with oil on canvas (Fig. 3). Daumier was a French caricature artist and these paintings were made late in his career. Along with bubbling in upper right the craquelure appeared random and radiating with large distances between large islands. The bubbling in the corner is an example of parallel disruption according to Stout, which is of the shell clef variety (1977). Parallel disruption means that the disruption is parallel to the canvas plane, rather than reaching down through to the ground as a perpendicular, or craquelure, disruption would. The craquelure in this example has been highlighted with red for visibility. The second Honor Daumier painting was quite different, The Holy Water Sprinkler, presumably because it was oil on panel instead of oil on canvas (Fig. 4). This painting exhibited a regular parallel pattern of cracking, much like Fragonard's work, with rectangular islands. The parallel cracks presumably run with the grain of the wood, while branches of smaller cracks are found between, against the grain. A look at the wood panel would be needed to verify this statement.

Fig. 5 Gilbert Stuart. Portrait of Frederick Nugent, Seventh Earl of Westmeath. ca. 1790-92. Hammer Museum.

Gilbert Stuart, an American painter, painted this, a Portrait of George Frederick Nugent, Seventh Earl of Westmeath, with oil on canvas (Fig. 5). He painted this portrait in the middle of his career. Although he painted mostly in the United States, he did study in the United Kingdom at the beginning of his career. Here we see yet another pattern; arc-line fork cracks (according to Stout) that permeate the painting, with smaller cracks radiating from the corners. Waves radiating from corners are caused by drying a layer of size at a low tension (Kapowickz).This study demonstrates that materials used do have an effect on the craquelure networks (Bucklow 1997). In general the paintings on canvas had more varied patterns, paintings on panel were more likely to have evenly spaced craquelure consisting of branching lines. Although material seemed to have more effect on the resulting crack pattern, locality also had an effect as seen in the distinct difference between the French and American paintings. Additionally, studies of craquelure patterns can offer insight into the techniques of each artist. In the Stuart example, we saw that he dried his paintings at a low tension, which caused the wave craquelure network. It is interesting, though not surprising, that the craquelure patterns were not consistent across one painting. Especially in the paintings on canvas, a craquelure pattern might vary according to the area of the paintings. This was probably because there were different tensions on that area when drying and different areas were painted with different pigments and binders. In lecture, Dr. Scott demonstrated how different areas settled to varying extent, causing variation in the craquelure networks.Although an amateur conservator's eye revealed quite a bit about the nature of craquelure, scientific study through x- radiograph and other methods would reveal much more about these patterns. Study of all aspects of a painting helps us identify forgeries and reveal important information about a work that we would not have otherwise known, thus enriching the universal knowledge of art and history.

BibliographyBucklow, Spike. "The Description and Classification of Craquelure." Studies in Conservation no. 44 (1999). pp. 233-244.Bucklow, Spike. "The Description of Craquelure Patterns." Studies in Conservation no. 42 (1997). pp. 129-140.Caple, Chris. Conservation Skills: Judgement, Method and Decision Making. Routledge, 2000.Craddock, Paul T. Scientific Investigation of Copies, Fakes and Forgeries. Routledge, 2009. Karpowicz, Adam. A Study on Development of Cracks on Paintings. Website, 1990. http://cool.conservation-us.org/jaic/articles/jaic29-02-005_3.html. Accessed January 27, 2014.Stout, George L. A Trial Index of Laminal Drisruption. Journal of the American Institute of Conservation, no. 17 (1977). pp. 17-26.Zilbergleyt, Boris. Forecast of Chemical Aging and Related Color Changes in Paintings. E-Conservation Magazine no. 7 (n.d.). Wigfield, Elizabeth. "Examination of a painted craquelure on a 17th-century Dutch marine painting attributed to Willem Van de Velde the Younger: A Case Study." The Conservator, no. 22 (1998). pp. 17-25.


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