Springfield, Illinois


Restored Paintings Hung at Presidential Library
 
  By Sarah Antonacci
August 29, 2006
 
           
Malcolm Brown watched cautiously Monday afternoon as the tether ropes were removed from the huge painting of the first Battle of Bull Run in the atrium of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. Brown, an exhibit specialist, had come up with the plan for hanging the newly restored painting, which is nearly 16 feet long and 4 1/2 feet high and weighs an estimated 75 pounds. "There are six wires on the back, and it's all about distributing the weight evenly throughout the frame," he said after the task was complete. The wires form a "spider web" pattern on the back that all connects to one steel loop. The picture was fastened in two places onto a picture-hanging strip that runs along the tops of the walls in the atrium so that the ever-changing exhibits are easy to switch out.
           
The Bull Run painting and another, a portrait of Illinois' third governor, Ninian Edwards, were recently restored and Monday were hung in the south end of the library atrium for all to see. The two pictures are historic paintings that belong to the Lincoln Library Collection. Both, over the years, had become dirty and damaged. "For many years this was an orphan," said Tom Schwartz, interim executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, of the Bull Run work, painted by Civil War veteran James Paul Sarver. The first Battle of Bull Run, fought in Virginia, was the first major battle of the Civil War.
           


  John Malinak and William Snyder hang the portrait of Ninian Edwards in the Abraham Lincoln Library.
Also hung Monday was the painting of the first Battle of Bull Run above the Edwards portrait.
           
The painting had been in various spots in the Old State Capitol, Schwartz said. "At one point, it was behind a door, and the door knob went through it," he said. But thanks to the work of conservator Barry Bauman, the battle picture, painted in 1919 by Sarver, who was 79 at the time, has been restored. Sarver painted the picture on several large sheets of paper that were seamed together and attached to a canvas, but the glue dried unevenly, causing problems. There were other problems, too. Bauman cleaned the painting, removed the paper from the canvas, removed the glue, attached the paper to Belgian linen and gave it some long-time protection.
           
"What would have cost us several tens of thousands of dollars only cost us several thousand dollars," Schwartz said. "It is such a welcome relief for us and other cultural institutions that don't have the funds for this type of work." Bauman, who founded the Chicago Conservation Center, sold the business in 2003. He now works exclusively for museums at no charge other than the price of materials.
           
The portrait of Ninian Edwards was in much the same condition. Some of the paint was flaking, it was dirty and a new canvas had to be applied. Bauman also did that work. The artist of the Edwards painting is unknown, although it is attributed to George P. Healy, a well-known portrait artist. Edwards' son, also named Ninian, was married to Elizabeth Todd, Mary Todd's sister. Another of his sons went on to found A.G. Edwards. A third, Benjamin, is the man for whom the Edwards Place is named, Schwartz said. Edwards also was one of Illinois' first U.S. senators.
           
The two paintings will be on display through the end of the year. After that, they will be placed in storage - new space that has been designed to store such pieces of art as part of the library and museum, Schwartz said. Bauman is working on two additional paintings for the museum. One is of Robert Smith Todd, Mary Todd Lincoln's father, a portrait painted by Mary's niece. The second is of Emma Oglesby, wife of 14th Illinois Gov. Richard Oglesby, and her two children.


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Barry Bauman Conservation
Contact: Mr. Barry Bauman
1122 N. Jackson Ave., River Forest, IL. 60305
Ph.(708)771-0382  Fax.(708)771-1532
e-mail:barrybbc7@yahoo.com