American Modernist Stuart Davis worked on The Mellow Pad for six years, 1946-51, finally reaching what he described as, “the most powerful objective Art realization of my life.” The painting has been a highlight of the Brooklyn Museum’s American Art collection since being acquired in 1992. Now, thanks to a generous Art Conservation Project grant from Bank of America, this important painting will receive both conservation treatment and a thorough technical study of its materials.

Davis’s working process and materials did more than just achieve the dynamic visuals of the painting; they also influenced the way the painting has aged in significant ways. Flaking and color change are the two primary concerns, both of which are demonstrated in The Mellow Pad. In a series of posts this winter, conservators will share their investigation into Davis’s materials and the complex layer structure of The Mellow Pad.

First, The Mellow Pad required stabilization of a recurring problem: lifted paint. Over the six years the painting was in Davis’s studio, layers of dust likely became interlayered with the paint. The resulting lack of adhesion between paint layers allowed the topmost layers to crack and lift away from the surface.


Detail of treated area in raking light before (left) and after treatment (right).

Stabilization treatment involved meticulously feeding adhesive into cracks and under lifted flakes of paint. The lifted paint was then relaxed back into its original position with mild heat and weighted until the adhesive was dry. Similar treatments had been performed on the painting in the past, and based on documentation records the most successful adhesive could be chosen for the current treatment. The painting was monitored in the Brooklyn Museum galleries for three months post-treatment to confirm that lifting would not return.

This treatment will allow Davis’s great work to travel with the upcoming retrospective exhibition organized by the @whitneymuseum, In Full Swing: The Art of Stuart Davis

Stay tuned to look even more closely at Davis and The Mellow Pad!

Posted by Jessica Ford 

Stuart Davis: In Full Swing opens June 10 at the Whitney!

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American Modernist Stuart Davis worked on The…