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Friday, July 6, 2012

An Encounter with the Newly Restored "Nymphs and Satyr"

This past May, Charles spent a few weeks in New York City. On a Tuesday morning, one of the last days of his trip, he was at the Met visiting all his old friends as they basked in the glow of their galleries: Sargent, Chase, Rembrandt, van Dyck, Delacroix, Gerome, Rubens and countless others. And as always, he was also on the hunt for the next great artistic revelation. In the European wing he noticed a few roped-off rooms and one hidden by partitions and, always curious, went to see if he could get a peek. What he saw about knocked him off his feet!

It was Bouguereau's "Nymphs and Satyr" in the process of being hung. Even from across the room the range of values and the glow of the painting were amazing. Charles had never encountered this painting before and it blew away all the reproductions he had ever seen. He just had to get in there and see it, but this was his last day in the city. Horribly frustrating! Sympathetic museum staff let him know that that gallery would reopen on Friday and he called me that night so excited with his find he was practically breathless. "I'm sorry Honey, but I'm gonna have to stay a few more days. I've got a date with a Nymph."

William Bouguereau painted "Nymphs and Satyr" in 1873. From 1882 to 1902 it hung in the bar of the Hoffman House hotel in New York City. When the bar came under new ownership in 1902, it was consigned to a warehouse where it languished for 40 years. In 1942 it was purchased by Robert Sterling Clark, who remembered the painting from his bar-hopping youth, and who then hired a less-than-stellar art restorer to spruce it up. Well, that guy botched the job, and created more problems than he fixed.

Last year the Clark Art Institute decided that the time was right to finally have the painting cleaned and restored. Taking over 4 months to complete, the work was done by the Williamstown Art Conservation Center in Massachusetts. And now, fresh and sparkling, it hangs on loan at the Metropolitan Museum of Art until the spring of 2014.

An article about the restoration was published in the WACC's spring newsletter: "A Bouguereau Reborn."

A high-rez photograph of the restored painting is available on the Met's website.

The painting's permanent home is the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown MA.

A detailed history of the painting can be found online here.

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