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.
7 November–4 December 2019
National Gallery of Slovenia