Scripps Receives Grant to Conserve Chinese Paintings

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)
will award Scripps College’s Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery a $58,385 grant that will enable the gallery to conserve
six, highly valuable, damaged Chinese paintings according to a Scripps  press release. The conservation project, which will restore works from the Ming and Qing dynasties, will serve as teaching material and ultimately be put on display to the public. 

Mary Macnaughton, associate
professor of Art History and director of the Williamson Gallery emphasized the importance
of these pieces as educational resources.

Scripps, in learning about Chinese history, students work directly with works
of art,” MacNaughton said. “For example, professor [of art history at Scripps] Bruce Coats and
students in his Arts of Late Imperial China course are
exploring and studying the Chinese treasures in the current exhibition in the
Clark Museum to understand the worlds of men and women in Chinese society. The
grant Scripps just received from IMLS will fund the
conservation treatment of Chinese paintings for future exhibitions.”

Art conservation major Gretchen Allen SC ’14 said she
is excited for the new opportunities provided by the IMLS grant. 

“The grant provided a reinvigoration of the prints, allowing
generations of students to experience them in all their glory. It also gives
future art conservation students like me a chance to study the processes used
to conserve them, and the Scripps community can experience the prints from
aesthetic, historical, and conservation perspectives in a whole new way,” Allen said. 

According to the Williamson
Gallery website, the gallery has made a point of
conserving Chinese paintings since 2007 and owns more than 100 Chinese
paintings. Behind the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Scripps possesses the second
largest collection of Chinese paintings in Southern California. Access to the original Chinese paintings allows
students, scholars, and the public to study the technical processes behind such
works and the historical contexts in which they were created. Most paintings
date back to the Ming (16th century) and Qing (19th century) dynasties.

As told by the “Conservation
Stories” shared on the Williamson Gallery’s website, art handlers found that the damage
to these works had been predominantly caused by improper modes of display—some
paintings had been placed on stretcher frames, which left visible marks on the
edges of the paper—or poor storage environments before the works came into
the hands of the Williamson Gallery.

According to the press release, Tomokatsu Kawazu, a conservator specializing in Asian art, will treat the
selected paintings. The works will be put on display for a future Williamson Gallery exhibition, which will focus on the traditional conservation of Asian

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