The Saint Louis Art Museum’s conservators aren’t the first people to attempt to repair the extensive damage on The Panorama of the Monumental Grandeur of the Mississippi Valley. As they move from scene to scene, the Museum’s conservators frequently encounter areas that have been retouched by previous restorers. As you can see from the images below, these areas of earlier restoration can be very problematic – often the colors don’t match, or details have been left out.
Although older restoration often seems messy to today’s viewers, it is important to keep in mind the limited technology and resources available to late 19th and early 20th century restorers. Media-matching, color matching, and retouching are very time-consuming, and while the Saint Louis Art Museum is able to dedicate many months and the efforts of several conservators to restore the panorama, previous restorers likely had just a fraction of that time or those resources. Also, because the panorama was typically viewed from a distance in the 19thcentury, poor overpainting was less obvious than it is for Museum visitors today.
Because early restorers used materials similar to the paint that John Egan originally used, these areas of previous restoration cannot be removed (typically, outdated restoration is removed if it won’t damage the original painting). Instead, the Saint Louis Art Museum conservators use watercolor crayons to blend the mismatched colors into the larger scene, adding details to match the surrounding area.