Alisha Chipman: Paul Messier, LLC
Alisha Chipman, UD art conservation graduate student, works on the back of a Gustave Le Gray print at Paul Messier LLC, a private conservation practice in Boston.


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11:15 a.m., July 28, 2010----I am spending my summer in the great American city of Boston while interning at Paul Messier LLC, a private practice conservation studio specializing in photographic materials and works on paper. During my eight-week internship, I will be treating several fine-art photographic prints including three albumen prints by Gustave Le Gray (1820-1884).

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Delicious Print

The Frenchman Gustave Le Gray was trained as a painter at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and in the studio of Paul Delaroche. However, in 1847 he abandoned painting to pursue a career in the burgeoning field of photography.

Le Gray soon became one of the most prominent and influential photographers of the century. He contributed to the technical advancement of photography with improvements to waxed paper negatives and collodion glass plate negatives and he shared his knowledge of the craft by teaching and publishing four technical treatises.

Le Gray produced many portraits in his Parisian studio and worked on commissioned projects such as The Mission Héliographique. However, the most highly respected of Le Gray's work are two series of images: the forest of Fontainebleau, and the seascapes of Normandy, Brittany, and the Mediterranean.

This summer, I have the great pleasure of treating three prints from Le Gray's seascape series: The Great Wave, Séte (1857), Solar Effect in the Clouds-Ocean, Normandy (1857), and The French Fleet, Cherbourg (1858). The Great Wave, Séte and The French Fleet, Cherbourg are both unmounted albumen prints that have multiple tears, losses, folds, and creases to the paper support and small losses to the image material. Therefore, the treatments will include surface cleaning, mending tears, consolidating, creating fills to compensate for areas of loss, reducing the appearance of creases, humidifying and flattening to increase the print's overall planarity, and in-painting areas of image loss.

Solar Effect in the Clouds-Ocean, Normandy is a mounted albumen print with staining and foxing. As a result, this treatment will consist of surface cleaning, bathing and light bleaching to reduce the staining.