The College at Brockport Restores Historic E. E. Cummings Collection

Art conservators James Hamm and Patricia Hamm have been entrusted with the restoration of The College at Brockport’s collection of oil paintings and works of art by 20th- century poet and painter E.E. Cummings. Their project includes treating the first 41 out of 72 works owned by The College.

In addition to researching the life and painting techniques of the artist, the conservators have thoroughly examined the artwork using magnification and ultraviolet radiation. Solubility tests have been made on the oil media, and ph readings have been taken on the paper and pressed board supports. These examination reports plus treatment proposals have been given to The College for each artwork. Photo: restorationThe proposed treatments vary from artwork-to-artwork. For some, cleaning or stabilizing the artwork is all that is necessary. For others, the treatments are complex, and may include: patching tears, inserting losses in the canvas or paper supports, applying linings or edge linings, in-painting areas of loss, and removing staining. All works will be properly matted and/or framed with similar framing stock as part of the treatments. The works on paper will be given ultraviolet filtering glazing for future color stability.

Before any actual restoration work is done on the artwork, photographs will be taken which document the condition of each artwork. Photographs also will be taken before in-painting and after the treatment is complete. Individual reports of the actual treatment steps, including adhesives, varnishes, and other technical materials, will be sent to The College after the treatments are complete.

One of the paintings to be restored is “Flowers and Hat: Patchen Place,” named, in part, after its place of origin, 4 Patchen Place, in the West Village of New York City, where Cummings lived from 1924 until his death. The home was given to Cummings by James Sibley Watson Jr., a friend from Harvard and heir to the Western Union fortune. In 1978, the Watson family donated the paintings from the Hildegarde Lasell Watson Collection to The College at Brockport.

About the Conservators

James is a professor of paintings conservation for the Art Conservation Department at Buffalo State College, State University of New York. In 2007 he received the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. He has presented lectures on “Connoisseurship, Provenance and Materials Analysis: Investigating Four Paintings Attributed to Rockwell Kent” at the Monhegan Historical Society Conference in Monhegan Island, ME, and “What’s Wrong with This Picture?: The Investigation of a Known Forgery by Robert Trotter” at the American Institute for Conservation annual conference in Richmond, VA. He has served as a University of Rochester Memorial Art Gallery conservation consultant since 1992 and is a reviewer for the Journal of the American Institute for Conservation.

James attended the University of Michigan, receiving a bachelor of science in art history (1974), and earned his master of art and certificate of advanced study in art conservation (1978) from the Cooperstown Graduate Programs affiliated with the State University of New York, College at Oneonta.

Patricia is the head paper conservator for Fine Arts Conservation and Technical Services in Clarence Center, NY, a position she has held since 1980. She has presented and published numerous papers, including “Second Generation Wet Paper Pulping” and “Dry Paper Pulping” found in The Book and Paper Group Annual American Institute for Conservation. She also presented a paper entitled “Flash Gordon and Tarzan Are Alive and Well — Conservation of Cartoon and Fantasy Art” in Modern Works, Modern Problems in 1994 for the Institute of Paper Conservation in London, UK. She has treated many watercolors by Charles Burchfield for the Burchfield-Penney Art Center at Buffalo State College and for private collectors.

Patricia received a BA (1968) and an MFA in Art (1970) from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. She also received an MA and Certificate of Advanced Studies in Art Conservation (1975) from the Cooperstown Graduate Programs affiliated with the State University of New York, College at Oneonta.