Reviving a Robert Henri
A stand-out of our Palm Beach projects involved Larry working with long-time friend and colleague of 55 years, Warren Adelson, on the restoration and framing of American Impressionism painter Robert Henri and his oil on canvas work, Betalo, The Dancer, 1910. The subject of the American Painter’s work is Betalo Rubino, an important model whom the artist featured in a series of portraits painted in 1909 and 1910.
The work was brought into Lowy Palm Beach in need of cleaning and with signs of aging; it also had an inappropriate poor quality French Louis XIV reproduction frame.
The Lowy restoration team in New York began by taking the canvas off its stretcher. They then humidified the canvas, relaxing the surface plane and mitigating the stretcher marks at the top and bottom. By doing so, the visual appeal was enhanced and the structurally fugitive paint cracks and tenting were stabilized.
The yellowed natural resin varnish was then removed revealing the previously camouflaged original palette used by the artist. This is especially apparent in the flesh tones and in the contrast between the darks and lights of the painting. The work was then stretched onto its original stretcher with proper surface tension for framing.
Robert Henri, born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and a leader of the Ash-Can School, painted working and middle-class people going about their ordinary days in urban life as his subject matter. Henri attended the Pennsylvania academy of the fine arts in Philadelphia before traveling to Paris where he studied at the académie Julian before being admitted to the école des beaux-arts. Afterward, Henri was a part of “The Eight”, a landmark showing of artworks in Macbeth Galleries in New York City.
Henri challenged the conventions of the more rigid and conservative academic artists with his fluid brush strokes and straightforward style. Henri taught at the New York School of Art from 1902 where his students included renowned impressionist and realist American artists such as Joseph Stella, Edward Hopper, Rockwell Kent, George Bellows, and Stuart Davis. The more artisanal hand-carved and gilded american arts and crafts style frames which became popular at the time were well suited to his work.
Finished in subtle patinas intended to complement the artists’ palettes, they were carved with stylized motifs on simpler profiles that echoed the composition and added an artistic flourish. Ornate 19th century wide gilt composition frames were the antithesis of this new aesthetic and sensibility.
For Betalo, Lowy selected and replicated a hand-carved period Arts and Crafts style frame gilded in warm 23k gold leaf with a medium-toned wash intended to complement the palette of this American painting.
It’s finished with a stylized leaf corner, drawing your eye to the details of the dress and the frame in the composition, adding a finishing touch to the artisanal quality of the frame.
Warren has generously commented that “Lowy has consistently done outstanding work through the years. They’ve always brought a painting back to us better than when I gave it to them. I would recommend Lowy without hesitation.”
You can view the newly restored and reframed piece at the Adelson Gallery on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach.