Barbara Hepworth’s nine-foot-tall Figure for Landscape usually stands in the Fran and Ray Stark Sculpture Terrace near the Getty Center’s West Pavilion. Last fall, however, it was taken off display for conservation treatment. A team of Museum preparators removed the 1,700-pound cast-bronze sculpture using a large gantry, and we conservators captured a time-lapse of the process. Scroll to the bottom of this post for the video.
Figure for Landscape is the seventh edition of seven casts produced by Morris Singer Foundry between 1961 and 1968. Barbara Hepworth was very involved with her artwork, from the initial creation of a plaster model to the final surface patination and finishing. She experimented with color on the surface of her bronzes and was known to play with colored lacquers and toned waxes to obtain variation in patina. The exact original appearance of the seventh edition is not fully known, so we will need to research and examine the surface for any preserved evidence, including chemical or coating-type patinas that may still exist. Identification of any original surface treatment from the foundry can be complicated, however, since a patina can change when it is exposed to the outdoor environment.
The sculpture requires treatment as part of an ongoing, general maintenance plan for the Stark collection of outdoor sculpture. Besides weekly cleaning and yearly waxing, the bronze sculptures in the collection require more a extensive coating renewal every 10 to 20 years to preserve the bronze. Several of the bronzes in the Getty’s collection have an acrylic coating under the top wax layer that was applied over 20 years ago. The lifespan of an acrylic coating is only 7 only 10 years, however. That’s why the Decorative Arts and Sculpture Conservation Department has embarked on a five-year project involving the deinstallation of the works in order to fully strip the acrylic and reapply a new coating.
The treatment will not only help preserve the sculpture, but will also provide an opportunity for us to research Hepworth’s working techniques, analyze the surface, and explore methods for removing coatings. Our last project to remove a coating, for Aristide Maillol’s L’Ete (another resident of the Sculpture Terrace), involved a combination of solvent cleaning and carbon dioxide blasting.
The treatment is currently in progress, and we hope to return the sculpture to the Sculpture Terrace by the end of summer 2015.
To learn more about this sculpture from a conservation perspective, see the book Conserving Outdoor Sculpture: The Stark Collection at the Getty Center.
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