Recently Conserved Portrait of Jeremias Van Rensselaer on View at the Clark Beginning April 12

For Immediate Release

April 02, 2008

Framing Colonial Albany, an exhibition of three works on view at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, highlights the findings of a yearlong conservation project exploring itinerant painter Thomas McIlworth, his painting Jeremias Van Rensselaer, and its elaborate frame. In addition to showcasing the conservation efforts, this project uncovers curious similarities with the frame belonging to a Thomas Gainsborough work, and the international connection of a Scottish artist painting members of a prominent Dutch family on British canvas in colonial America. Framing Colonial Albany is on view April 12 through July 6.

Over the past year, 2008 Lenett Fellow Katherine Alcauskas worked with conservators from the Williamstown Art Conservation Center (WACC) researching an 18th-century portrait of a member of one of Albany, New York’s founding families—the Van Rensselaers. WACC, a nonprofit organization, is the largest regional conservation center in the country and serves more than 53 member museums and historical societies, as well as many individuals and corporations. This conservation of McIlworth’s painting highlights WACC’s important mission of conserving cultural heritage for future generations. In June, WACC will move into Stone Hill Center on the Clark campus. The transparent design of Stone Hill Center allows visitors to glimpse inside the conservation studios and see work in progress similar to the process involved with Jeremias Van Rensselaer.

Jeremias Van Rensselaer, an oil on canvas dating to 1763, was recently given to the Albany Institute of History and Art (AIHA) in Albany, NY. A visiting scholar at the AIHA noticed the similarity between this painting’s frame and another in AIHA’s collection, the portrait Barbara, Lady Mostyn by Thomas Gainsborough. This project investigates the nearly identical original frames of Gainsborough’s and McIlworth’s paintings; conveys the method of frame production and gilding; explores the international relationship of the frame, canvas, artist, and sitter; along with detailing the process of conservation undertaken on the portrait of Jeremias Van Rensselaer. Barbara, Lady Mostyn by Gainsborough, along with the portrait of Stephen Van Rensselaer II (cousin of Jeremias) by McIlworth, both belonging to the AIHA, will also be on display.

McIlworth (active 1757–1769), whose grandfather William Mosman was one of the great portrait painters of 18th-century Scotland, immigrated to New York City in 1757, where he worked for five years, occasionally advertising his skills as a portrait painter in local newspapers such as the New York Mercury and the New-York Gazette. In 1762, McIlworth began traveling through the Hudson Valley, painting prominent landowners. While in Albany, McIlworth painted many portraits of members of the city’s leading families—the Van Rensselaers, the Schuylers, and the Ten Broecks.It is the time McIlworth spent in Albany that is the focus of Framing Colonial Albany. 

Alcauskas is the 2008 Lenett Fellow in the Clark/Williams Graduate Program in the History of Art. The Judith M. Lenett Memorial Fund was established by the family and friends of the late Ms. Lenett, a candidate for the M.A. degree, class of 1983, to provide lectures and seminars in American art and its conservation. Students with an interest in American art and art conservation enrolled in the graduate program apply for the fellowship at the end of their first year. The student selected as the Lenett Fellow works with the staff of WACC during his/her second year in the program, culminating in a public lecture in the spring. The Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art, the Clark, and WACC jointly administer the Lenett Fellowship.

On Wednesday, May 7, at 5:30 pm, Alcauskas will present a lecture on Framing Colonial Albany at the Clark. Admission to the lecture is free.

The Clark is located at 225 South Street in Williamstown. The galleries are open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm (daily in July and August). Admission is free November 1 through May 31. Admission June 1 through October 31 is $12.50 for adults, free for children 18 and younger, members, and students with valid ID. For more information, call 413-458-2303 or visit www.clarkart.edu.

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