Bancroft Paintings Receive Conservation Treatment

Posted on 10/17/2013 2:48:09 PM

Two paintings in the University Museum’s collection by Milton H. Bancroft, an American impressionist painter and muralist of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, received conservation treatment earlier in 2013.

Working primarily in New York City after studying in Philadelphia and Paris, Bancroft was selected to paint murals for the Court of the Seasons at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, 1915. He also was well known for his fine portraits, including other artists (such as Daniel Chester French) and members of their families.

Bancroft Conserved Isidore Konti PortraitBancroft’s portrait of the sculptor Isidore Konti (right) is the museum’s most recent conservation project, which included cleaning, relining the canvas, infilling missing paint, and framing.

Born in Austria to Hungarian parents, Konti worked mainly in the United States, specializing in architectural sculpture—capitals, relief panels, and sculptures for important buildings. He created works for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, and the Pan-American Building in Washington, D.C., among other prominent sites.

Bancroft Damaged Detail - Woman Reading to ChildThe second Bancroft painting features a woman reading to a young boy (left). We do not know their identities, but the informal setting suggests that the pair might have been members of Bancroft’s extended family. This painting had undergone earlier attempts at restoration that weren’t compatible with the artist’s materials. 

Today, conservators use materials and techniques that are reversible, to avoid doing permanent harm to a damaged work of art. This time, the canvas was relined to strengthen it, cracking paint was stabilized, and missing paint was filled in. Pinpoints of light visible in the photograph are reflections on very textured areas of paint (image below, right).Bancroft Conserved-Woman Reading to Child

The University Museum has a large collection of Bancroft’s paintings, drawings, commissioned art for WWI posters, and studies for murals. Special Collections in the University Libraries holds an extensive collection of Bancroft’s letters, photographs, and other ephemera. Together, these collections comprise the most comprehensive body of Bancroft material in any American institution.