Published: May 27, 2010
Joseph Blackburn, Portrait of Benning Wentworth, Royal Governor of New Hampshire (detail), 1759, oil on canvas, SCAD Museum of Art, Gift of Earle W. Newton.
SAVANNAH, Ga. — The SCAD Museum of Art has been awarded a major grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to restore the museum’s core group of early American paintings. The grant of $35,000 has been awarded to the museum in the category of Access to Artistic Excellence. The grant will allow the museum to conserve six important colonial American paintings, with two additional paintings receiving technical examinations to determine future treatment. The museum’s primary goal is to conserve the paintings as well as the light they cast on colonial portraiture and on early American cultural traditions.
“We are honored to have been awarded this important NEA grant,” said Maureen Burke, executive director of the SCAD Museum of Art and dean of academic initiatives. “The grant will enable us to share these wonderful paintings with students and visitors.”
The art works that will receive conservation treatment during this project are highly important early American portrait paintings from the museum’s major Newton Collection of British and American Art, donated in 2001 by Earle W. Newton, O.B.E. They include 18th-century portraits by Blackburn, Stuart, Benbridge, Theus, and Badger. All of the works are oil on canvas. The selection was based on urgent conservation needs for the paintings, as well as the art historical significance of the artists and their role within the American colonial portrait tradition and American art history. The early American collection is an integral part of the museum’s focus, based on its location in colonial Savannah. The early American works also form a bridge between the museum’s important British collection and later American art, as well as with the African-American art found in the Walter O. Evans Collection.
Rustin Levenson Art Conservation Associates of New York, who conducted the original preliminary work on the Newton Collection, will undertake the conservation treatment across two years. Following the structural and aesthetic repairs which will improve both the works’ appearance and long-term stability, the paintings will be exhibited for the first time in a newly created American Gallery in the museum’s expansion to the 1853 Central of Georgia Railroad freight depot which is in progress and scheduled to open September 2011.
As a teaching museum, the SCAD Museum of Art forms a critical learning resource for the university’s artist community of faculty and students, serving as a source of inspiration and providing direct access to original works of art from different periods, including some of the great masters of the past.
The SCAD Museum of Art
is located at 227 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., in the former 1856 Gray Building headquarters of the Central of Georgia Railroad. It is open to the public free of charge Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday, 1-5 p.m. Media may call 912.525.5210 for interview and image requests.