Tomorrow, September 3, is the last day of Restoring an American Treasure. This summer, the Saint Louis Art Museum conservators were able to complete a total of 12 scenes, covering over 160 feet of canvas. Only three scenes – 17, 19, and 21 – still require restoration.
Though the exhibition is ending, you haven’t seen the last of The Panorama of the Monumental Grandeur of the Mississippi Valley. Once the remaining scenes have been restored, the panorama will be permanently installed in the American Art Galleries.
The Saint Louis Art Museum will be open on Labor Day, so come and visit Restoring an American Treasure before it closes!
Today we have an interview with Nicole Pizzini, another conservation assistant.
Catherine Wood: How did you become interested in art conservation?
Nicole Pizzini: I was a chemistry major who took an art history class… and that was a fatal blow to my chemistry major. I just fell in love with art history and knew I had to be doing art. But I still wanted that chemistry side.
Actually, it was looking through job postings here at the Saint Louis Art Museum that led me to discover the field of conservation. I was searching for a way that I could integrate art history into my schooling, and I saw they were looking for a paper conservator. When I researched conservation, I realized it perfectly matched what I wanted out of my career and my life. Art and science? Sign me up.
CW: This is your second year working on The Panorama of the Monumental Grandeur of the Mississippi Valley, right?
NP: Yes, I started last summer. When I heard about the project I was really excited because it’s in my hometown. I grew up in this museum. I wanted to be able to do what I love here and show my hometowners what I do and how great it is.
This summer, three assistants helped in the conservation of The Panorama of the Monumental Grandeur of the Mississippi Valley. Not yet full conservators, these assistants use their time working on the panorama to gain experience before attending graduate school. This week I’ll be interviewing the assistants, starting with Jacqueline Keck, who is new to Restoring an American Treasure this year.
Catherine Wood: What’s your background?
Jacqueline Keck: I have a BFA in Studio Art, and I also have an Art History minor. [Restoring an American Treasure] is actually my first project.
CW: How do you like it so far?
JK: I love it. It’s exactly what I want to do.
Scene 16: Indians at Their Games
The last scene to be conserved during this summer’s Restoring an American Treasure has just gone on view. Scene 16: Indians at Their Games, depicts a group of Native Americans playing chunkey, a game with ancient roots. To tell us more about chunkey, we have Amy Clark, curatorial research assistant specializing in Ancient American art.
The main objective of chunkey was to throw a long spear or stick at a rolling disk. The person who threw the stick closest to the resting place of the disk was declared the winner. Although the game rules varied by region and evolved over time, chunkey was considered a competitive, gambling sport by all.
Over the past two summers it has become clear that the creation of The Panorama of the Monumental Grandeur of the Mississippi Valley wasn’t just a single event. As he painted the panorama, John Egan made numerous edits to his own work. We’ve already seen this editing process in Scene 17, which was inserted into the panorama at a later date and incorporates a different type of paint.
Another way in which we have learned about Egan’s artistic process is via his repainting of earlier work. Occasionally, Egan would return to paint over areas that he had already finished, in order to fix small errors or edit details. As the panorama suffered damage in later years, this outer layer of overpaint began flaking off, revealing Egan’s earlier work underneath.
Detail from Scene 24: Temple of the Sun by Sunset