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’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.
The 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).
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