El Greco Restoration | Arts Upload

El Greco Restoration | Arts Upload


I don”’t know about you,
but I seldom– when I”’m walking through
a museum or gallery– spend much time thinking
about the flaws that might be hiding
in the pieces or paintings. Yeah, same here, but when your
collection contains works that are hundreds
or even thousands of years old, sometimes a little repair work
needs to be done. As a matter of fact,
the Conservation Department at the Nelson-Atkins Museum recently faced
a pretty interesting challenge. Restoration expert
Scott Heffley took on the task of making a certain Old Master”’s
painting look a little fresher before it went to Spain
for an exhibition celebrating the 400th
anniversary of El Greco”’s death. KCPT”’s Mike Murphy spent
hours and hours watching Scott”’s painstaking touch
on thePenitent Magdalene. And producer Ashley Holcroft
has shortened it for your viewing pleasures. [choral music] ♪ ♪   (Scott)
The painting entered
the collection in 1930. 1930 is the first year that the Nelson
was collecting artwork. They had people over in Europe
buying art, and they number the paintings according to when they enter
the collection. So this one, purchased in 1930, was the 35th work of art
that was put into Nelson-Atkins Museum”’s
collection. So it was an important work
to be added. They had a laundry list,
and the laundry list was a good example of all
the Masters. So they wanted a Rembrandt. You know,
they fell into a Caravaggio. They wanted a Titian. They wanted a Bronzino. They wanted representations of
all of these important artists. So, when this came along,
the 35th artwork, and it was very strongly
El Greco, it was an easy choice. It treats a religious subject
with clarity and simplicity, and it really allows you
to focus on her moment
of seeing Christ. (Ashley)
ThePenitent Magdalene
is not only a jewel of the Nelson-Aktins collection, it”’s internationally recognized
as one of the finest examples of El Greco”’s work,
and because of that, it was cordially invited
to participate in an exhibition that commemorated
the 400th anniversary of the master”’s death, in his adopted home town
of Toledo, Spain. But before she could make
the 4,600-mile journey, Scott had to embark
on one of the most challenging restorations of his career. (Scott)
We”’re now looking at the
painting with ultraviolet light, a black light, and what that
does is it shows up the previous restoration
that”’s on the painting will fluoresce a dark color, and so it makes it easier for us
to see it. When you look at her arm,
it should be a very smooth arm, and it”’s not. All of these dark areas
are areas of repaint, and when I clean
the painting, all of that old restoration
will come off, and I”’ll be able to see
the actual damage that”’s on the painting. Then what I”’ll do is I”’ll
rebuild that with my own paints so that her flesh will look
smooth and continuous. Now, I did find,
when I did my test cleanings, that underneath the varnish and underneath the repaint, there”’s something else
on the surface that gets gummy. And it”’s–I have to sort of
swell it with the solvent, and I have
to kind of smear it off and kind of pick it off. I don”’t know what that is. This may be my most complicated
treatment to date. (Ashley)
El Greco”’s first brushstroke
on this canvas was in 1580, and since then, it has endured
countless attempts at preservation and often with materials
that did more harm than good. (Scott)
They didn”’t have the chemicals
that we have, and so to dissolve this
discoloration and this varnish, they sometimes even spread lye
on the painting– really caustic material– and even put it in the sun to have that bake and dissolve
off this discoloration, Then they wiped that off,
and, oh… When you see damage
to a masterpiece, it is painful. When you”’re restoring something,
you and it are one, I mean, because you”’re
responsible for bringing it back to its best appearance, the way that El Greco
painted it, in this case. (Ashley)
After removing the last remnant
of past restorations, Scott”’s task is to now bridge
the islands of original paint.   (Scott)
The next step is for me to apply the first coat of varnish. And the reason I do that
is to saturate the colors. I use a natural resin varnish that has the most
saturating capabilities, the same kind of varnish
that El Greco might have used, but with modern additions to keep it
from discoloring over time. And then I”’ll begin
the inpainting. If you look closely,
there are lots of dark dots, and that”’s where the original
paint”’s been skinned off of the actual top
of the canvas weave, and I”’ll mix my paints,
and I”’ll put my dot of white right where
that dot of black is. And I do that
over every single little dot, even the tiny ones, mixing the colors to match
the surrounding area at each point where I put
the inpainting. And then, you know, his
very quick and lucid brushwork will be apparent. I”’ll be doing that
in very good natural light. Depending if it”’s a cloudy day,
I can”’t work. It has to be
good lighting conditions for me to see these colors, and the human eye
is the only thing that can match these colors, because sometimes the colors are layers of transparent
over opaque. Those kinds of issues can”’t be
perceived by a computer. The human eye is just
more capable at matching the way that
the artist intended it to look. It”’s really a thrill
to bring it back. It looks so bad now, but I see only promise
in this painting. When it”’s wet up, I can see
the genius in different places that are fractured and damaged
and compromised, but I know,
through the inpainting, that I”’ll be able
to unify his work and bring back that genius. We aim for everything
to be reversible, and the paints that I use– anyone could come in
100 years from now using a very weak solvent
and take that off. Very easy for them to get back
to the original now that I”’ve brought it
to this point.   It takes quite a bit
of patience, but when you”’re inpainting
and the light is good and you”’re matching the colors,
you often get lost in it. It does require patience,
but you just are doing it, and time goes by quickly. Your mind can wander, and,
you know, you”’re just– just entranced with it. (Ashley)
As Scott”’s final brush strokes cleave with El Greco”’s
original intention, his endeavor–that has taken
over a year to complete– is sealed with coats
of lacquer…   and wheeled off for a homecoming
centuries in the making. (Scott)
The focus of this exhibition
in Toledo was understanding work by El Greco
in his hand, and work by his workshop,
work by followers of El Greco, and even further down the line. And so they were very interested
in ourPenitent Magdalene. They used this as a real
center point in the show, because this is clearly
completely by El Greco”’s hand, and then they had other
Penitent Magdalenes that were further down the line,
and visitors to the show could see the differences
themselves, and learn about El Greco”’s
technique. (Nicole Meyers)
It”’s really part of our mission, to be able to share our
collection, not just with our visitors
here in Kansas City or even within the United
States, but to share our collection, really,
with a worldwide audience. We knew that it needed treatment
for quite some time, so for us to be able to do
this conservation work, and know that when we sent
the painting there, that it”’s the best example
that it can possibly be of our painting
is really important and really special to us. (Ashley voice-over)
After months abroad,
thePenitent Magdalene returned home
to once again adorn the Nelson-Atkins”’
hallowed walls.   And after a thorough inspection, she joined one of Scott”’s
past restorations, theTrinitarian Friar,marking
the first time in museum history that the two El Grecos
have hung side by side.   (Scott)
I just love it, and I have such a kinship
with it now. I feel like it”’s my painting.
I mean, I don”’t own it, but I own sort of an area of it. I share a bond, and so when I come up to it
in the gallery, I just– we”’re friends, and we”’re back
together again, you know? And I–that”’s really
kind of a thrill. And since I”’ve been here
a long time and I”’ve restored many of our
really great paintings, I”’ve got a lot of friends here.
[laughs]   (Maris)
The internationally-renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance
Theatre has two homes. Its headquarters are
in New York City. And the other?
It”’s right here in Kansas City. (Randy)
That might seem surprising,
but Alvin Ailey was a Texan, a man who loved
jazz and barbecue, and was good friends with
Tod Bolender, the artistic director of
the Kansas City Ballet. – Mr. Ailey also believed
that dance could help bring people together across racial divides and
cultural barriers. – In 2013,
The Friends of Alvin Ailey received a major grant
that will help them spread the gospel of dance even
further into the community. (man)
Here we go!
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight! One, two, three, four,
five, six, seven, eight! One, two, three, four, five,
six, seven, eight! One, two, three, four,
five, six, seven, eight! One, two, three, four, five,
six, seven, eight! [all vocalizing] [laughing] I”’m extremely proud of what Kansas City Friends of
Alvin Ailey stands for. [dance music plays] ♪ ♪ Art–and dance in particular–
is one of those things that has to be passed down. You”’re always passing it on
to the next generation. And so it”’s wonderful when an organization can have
an opportunity to bring great art,
and then bring it to students that don”’t often have access
to that art. [gospel music plays]
[people clapping in rhythm] (Randy voice-over)
As you can see, a school visit
by the Ailey Trio makes for
an adrenaline-laced hour. And these three dancers don”’t
come from the B Team, either. They”’re all members of
the main Ailey Troupe, which tours the world,
performing pieces like this, Odettahad its world premiere
in Kansas City last fall. [This Little Light of Mine
playing] ♪ ♪ Eight years ago,
Arionna Armstrong, now a senior at Lincoln Prep,
was one of those very kids at Allen Village School,
watching intently as The Trio made their magic. (Arionna)
I just remember the feeling
that I had when they talked, and it seemed like they were
so into what they were doing. And we got to do dance classes
with them, so that encouraged me to come
take dance classes when I was, like,
in the fourth grade. (dance teacher)
Release, contract, release, round the world,
six, seven–to the left. (Randy)
So two times a week, Arionna
heads over to the Ailey Studio on East 18th Street
for classes in modern dance. When she heads off to college
in the fall, Arionna knows she won”’t be
pursuing dance as a career, but the gifts it”’s given her
have been substantial. (Arionna)
Dance has always been something I look forward to, because
it”’s always been a positive way to express myself, ”’cause, outside of dance,
I”’m really quiet into myself. When people find out
I dance at Alvin Ailey, they”’re surprised because,
I”’m a totally different person when I”’m on stage
than I am in my normal life. (dance teacher)
Three, four, five, six, seven– It”’s not about making dancers. If we make dancers,
that”’s terrific. You know, some of our students
have gone on to have professional careers,
but it”’s really about helping our young people realize
that they have access. [rapid drum beats] (Randy)
Alvin Ailey had another
ambitious goal– to help young people
mastering dance become what he called “world citizens,”
better equipped to see themselves through
a bigger lens. The annual Ailey Camp,
originated here and now replicated
in eleven other cities, also offers classes
in music and visual arts, as well as one that many campers
call their favorite, Personal Development. (Michael)
We think that kids know a lot,
because there”’s so much access to information these days,
and yes, they do know a lot, but a lot of what they know
is misinformation, so we touch on subjects like
human sexuality, drug and alcohol abuse,
suicide and depression. We find that, when they have
good information, it empowers them
to make better decisions. We get to start out
where kids are, and we might have to move slow, and we might have to take
little tiny steps, but one day we hope those kids
will take leaps. (dance teacher)
Foot up!
Andrond de jambe. Up,plié, sous sus,
pas de cheval! (Randy voice-over)
The Friends of Alvin Ailey
at Paseo is yet another place where
youth and movement intersect. New York-based Hassan Blanford
is one of four teaching artists working with students
at the academy to create original pieces
for a dance showcase at the end of the school year. (Michael)
It”’s so important for
young people to see people that they can relate to
doing things out in the world, because that really inspires
them to do so themselves. – One, two, three, four,
two, two, three, four, One, two, three, four,
sauté! (Randy)
Hundreds of school kids
pouring in to see what for many will be their
first live dance performance has been a familiar sight here
for the last 30 years. And it will continue to be,
according to Tyrone Aiken. But thanks to that challenge
grant from the Muriel McBrien Kauffman
Foundation, other efforts are underway to
raise the organization”’s profile even when the company
isn”’t in town. More symposiums,
a new scholarship contest, and a sizable expansion
of their annual block party in the Jazz District. I think what we advertised
in the first 30 years was really talking about
the dance companies, and we”’re shifting some, so we”’re starting to talk more
about ourselves, and that is important, because
we”’re wanting people to know that while the art is extremely
important to our mission, there are these other areas
that are as important. And through the new stuff
that we”’re doing, we”’re wanting to showcase that. That”’s why you may see us
in a community center, at a hospital, in a prison, as well as on the concert stage. Because it was always about
reaching people where they were, and trying to give them
an experience that can be uplifting
if not transformative. [gospel music] ♪ ♪   [applause] Hey, Maris, have you ever done
one of those movie quote-alongs? No, I have not, but I”’ve
heard they”’re a lot of fun. Our producer, Ashley Holcroft,
didDie Hardfor Christmas and she loved it. Yippee ki-yay, Mr. Falcon!
[fires toy gun] One of the many fan favorites.
Big Lebowskiis another. They have figured out
here at the Alamo that audience participation is
the key, and it doesn”’t hurt when you have a few good
libations around, too. In case you missed it,
the Drafthouse, which started in Austin, took
over the AMC Mainstreet Theater a few years back, and they”’ve
got a great facility here. With this downtown
revival going on, this can be a
pretty lively place. (Randy)
A lot livelier
than back in the days when the old Empire Theatre
stood on this site, and a tree was growing
through the roof. Well, trees in these parts
are pretty naked right now, but that won”’t stop us from
sharing another installment of our ongoing series,
“My Favorite Fountain.” In anticipation of
warmer days to come, Dave Burkhardt headed
north to share with you Anita Gorman”’s
not-so-surprising choice.   (Anita)
This is
the Northland Fountain, North Oak and Vivion Road. The Northland Fountain
is my favorite fountain, because it united the community,
and we all own it, and we”’re all proud of it. We”’ve got more land north of
the river than they do south of the river, but
we didn”’t have any fountains. So it was time that we had one. And the community came
behind this. We got even three cents from
little children, and Farmland Industries was
a big contributor, and we turned this fountain on
on June 21, 1983.   I was called when I was on
the Park Board, to go up to
the Northland Fountain because there were
children in it, and they should not be in it,
because there was no lifeguard or anything like that.
So I came right up here to do that,
and being an old schoolteacher, I thought that
wouldn”’t be hard for me, and a little four-year-old said,
“Aren”’t you going to get in?” And I said, “No,”
and he said, “You should. This is the goodest place
in the whole world.” And I thought,
“Have a good time.” I didn”’t kick him out. It”’s the second most-used
public spot for weddings in the whole city.
Loose Park is first. This is second. You see all kinds, you know,
of people here. Kids, when they”’re going
to the prom, they come here and have their picture taken. This fountain remains
the largest fountain that runs year-round when the
temperature is below freezing.   People should come here
because they can see that this is the way things
can happen when people unite and work together for something.   (Randy)
Here onArts Upload,
we like to share some of the fun things going on
in other parts of the world. And since the theme this week
is show biz itself, we wanted to share this piece
from Sin City. The topic is Liberace,
and the costumes he wore, as told by
the men who made them. [piano music] ♪ ♪   (Jim)
My name is Jim Lapidus,
and I am a costume designer. We”’re here to celebrate
the costumes and the life of Liberace. I have a costume.
It”’s the iconic piano key suit, that I designed for Lee
back in 1974. I am so thrilled the
Cosmopolitan did this exhibit, and I am thrilled that
they”’ve honored Michael Travis, who is my mentor.
Michael Travis, if you look at the embroidery,
he”’s like Picasso of beading. I did a couple of pieces
for stage, but I was really primarily
known for stuff that he would do personal
appearances in. Michael Travis did
the big show pieces that you”’ve seen today
and that Lee”’s known for. I made the classic
Liberace look, the 17 years
that I worked with him. It changed from a flashy,
gaudy look, to a really– if I say so myself–and
inspirational, fabulous costume look, you know,
with exquisite embroidery, exquisite detail, that had not been seen
in his costumes ever before. I went over the top with what
had been going on with his costumes.
When I joined him in 1970, it was a hodgepodge. You know, anything for flash. And when I was asked to do it, I was kind of “I don”’t know,”
you know? I mean, that kind of stuff. But when he said, “You can do
anything you want,” and I tested him out,
it was full speed ahead. Prior to him, I had done a show
calledLaugh-In,on television, and then I was doing
Tony Orlando and Dawn. And I was also doing
Wayne Newton. I was doing The Supremes.
I was doing Fifth Dimension. I was doing Dionne Warwick,
and a few others. I was very thrilled
for the break that it gave me. I mean, I was doing very nicely,
withLaugh-Inand all that, but this was just
going over the top, just being able to do
what I wanted.   Ho, ho–that had to be me.
It was more than rhinestones. It was rhinestones,
it was bugle beads, it was pearls, it was
gold filigree embroidery. It was all kinds of fancy,
fancy type of embroidery. The one over here–
it”’s what I call the Napoleonic Austrian costume. The trademark of it is that
when you opened it up, the whole thing flashed
an army of embroidery that looked like feathers. It was on the billboard here
in Las Vegas. And the other one–
there”’s a blue one. The suit and the coat are
exquisite, in every detail. Basically, I studied
fashion designing in Paris, and I got exposed to a lot of
the arts of classical design, of classical period costumes
and all of that. And a lot of that was funneled
into what I was doing with Lee. All in all, it was just a desire
to just keep moving, to top what I had done before, and the fact that I knew that
I hadcarte blanche, that nobody was going to tell
me, “No, this is too much,” or “It”’s going to cost
too much,” was a reason to go
one inch further. Finally we came up with
a $350,000 white fox cape, with an embroidered costume
”’cause he wanted it to look like Marlene Dietrich. Nothing specifically guided me,
you know. All I knew is that I liked
elegance. As he said, his famous quote, “Too much is just wonderful,”
if you do it right. If you do it right, and these are examples of
doing it right.   Well, we”’ve reached that spot
where about all there is left to do is say,
“Hey, we”’ve reached the end of another edition of
Arts Upload.” And we”’ve gotten to
share it with you from the Alamo Drafthouse, where movies new and old
are always on display. And don”’t forget
The Chesterfield in back, which will keep you
fed and watered. Next week, we”’ll roll in with
painter Philomene Bennett and a lady who writes
about local music when she”’s not playing it,
Michelle Bacon. Till then,
I”’m Randy Mason. And I”’m Maris Aylward.
Thanks for watching.   I was watching
Life of Mammals, which David Attenborough
narrates and it”’s really wonderful,
and he came to this section that was about
the platypus, but you didn”’t know it
was about the platypus. And he was telling a little
bit about their history, and he”’s just so animated,
and so great, and he said that when
explorers first discovered this animal and sent word back,
nobody believed them, and that they thought it was– It was like a unicorn to them,
”’cause it”’s so weird. And then it just zoomed
on David Attenborough”’s face and he goes, “But, no,
it”’s real. It”’s alive. It”’s the platypus.”
And it was just really magical and I fell in love
with David Attenborough and the platypus.
It”’s pretty magical.   Production funding for
Arts Upload has been provided in part by:  

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