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Exhibitions and Projects
7 November–4 December 2019

Revelations, November 2019

Restoration of the painting The Sower by Ivan Grohar - adaptation of a deformed stretcher frame

This year, the National Gallery of Slovenia enriched the spring in Prague with a large-scale and quality exhibition of Slovenian art entitled Impressionism from Dawn till Dusk. It was opened from May through September at Prague Castle. During the preparatory phase we, the restorers, examined about five hundred works of art, some of which were subsequently conserved and restored.

Among other pieces also The Sower, a painting by Ivan Grohar (1867–1911), was restored. The oil paint was applied to the canvas in several thick layers and was cracked all over the surface. Additional trouble occurred because of the fact that beneath the motif of The Sower there was an older motif of a landscape, later overpainted; the interval between the execution of the one and the other image can have a negative effect on the two paint layers stuck together. When we first examined the painting, we decided on the consolidation of the paint layer, which, however, on a more exact examination proved a rather minor problem. The rich and strong decorative frame effectively concealed the structurally deformed stretcher frame which carries the canvas of the painting. The bars and wood in the corners of the flexible stretcher frame were so crooked that they caused creases on the carrier, i.e. the canvas, and cracking and peeling of the paint layer.

We decided to preserve the original stretcher frame, which is not always the practice in such a case. Taking account of the chosen wood (core) and the very execution, I believe that the stretcher frame was not made by a professional carpenter or a master with good knowledge of the nature of wood – I presume it was made by the painter himself. It is known that Ivan Grohar lived in poverty almost throughout his life, yet he nevertheless painted and exhibited extensively all the time. In view of his living conditions and his manual dexterity it is quite plausible that many a stretcher frame of his earlier canvases is his own work. Caution is therefore not unnecessary.

We reinforced and regulated the edges of the stretcher by means of wooden slats. Locally gluing cracks and fallen-off fragments and replacing missing wood help to enhance the bearing strength and solidity of the auxiliary carrier. We straightened the creased canvas, consolidated the paint layer and retouched the damaged areas of the paint.

It is reasonable to hope that the work of art, treated like that, can better stand the test of time and the trials to which it is doomed due to its fame.

Miha Pirnat

Alenka Klemenc

7 November–4 December 2019
National Gallery of Slovenia
Prešernova 24
1000 Ljubljana