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Conservation of Jackson Pollock's Mural

Video transcript
Our challenge in conservation is always to keep in mind the artist's intent. What did Pollock intend? What did he want us to see? How did he want his painting presented? [LAURA RIVERS] By the time the painting arrived at the University of Iowa in 1951, it had been stretched and unstretched, rolled and unrolled, at least five times. That kind of stress on a painting this large can cause significant structural problems, as well as problems within the paint surface itself. By 1973, the stretcher had cracked under the weight of the canvas, and there was a notable sag. As part of the conservation treatment, the secondary canvas was adhered to the back of the original canvas, consolidating the paint from behind with a wax and resin adhesive. While this successfully stabilized the paint, it also made the sag a permanent feature, with the adhesive locking the distortion into place. When the painting was restretched, the distortion meant that portions of the unpainted tacking margins were now visible on the front of the painting. Additionally, as part of the conservation treatment, the painting was varnished. Pollock didn't varnish the painting originally. [YVONNE SZAFRAN] By the time the painting arrives at the Getty it looks quite different to the way it looked when it left Pollock's studio. Cleaning made a tremendous difference, as the removal of the varnish uncovered a variety of gloss and matte effects resulting from Pollock's innovative paint applications. Removing the varnish was the first step, dealing with the distortion was a bit more complex. [LAURA RIVERS] The first choice was to place the painting on a rectangular stretcher, maintaining the edges as they were after the 1973 treatment. The second choice was to place the painting on a shaped stretcher, returning the edges to something approximating what they originally were. [YVONNE SZAFRAN] We made the decision to place the painting back on a shaped stretcher, a stretcher that returned the painting to its historical edges, the edges that Pollock intended us to see. And by doing so, we returned an energy to the painting, as well as reestablishing the visual boundaries of the painting. And now the painting is much closer in appearance to how it looked when Pollock first painted it.