The Berry Picker

The Berry Picker, overall

The Berry Picker, detail center right
showing brush marks in the "amber" toning

The Berry Picker, shown in ultra-violet light.
Sample of modern paper with fluorescent optical whiteness, upper right

Formerly attributed to Winslow Homer,
The Berry Picker, watercolor over graphite.

This watercolor came to the lab for possible treatment while I was conservator at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. During the examination questions arose. A strong amber tone, reminiscent of natural aging resulting from exposure to light, was present over the piece. However, close inspection revealed that the tone failed to reach into the deeper areas of the paper surface. In all likelihood, the amber tone had been applied with a dry brush to emulate natural aging.

Further investigation was undertaken by placing the watercolor in ultraviolet light which revealed that the paper contain optical whiteners. Optical whiteners are placed in paper by the manufacturer. They serve to create a cool tone in the paper which enhances the perception of whiteness. Unfortunately for the Nelson-Atkins watercolor, fluorescent optical whiteners were not used in paper manufacturing until the 1930's, far too late for a watercolor supposedly executed in the 1880's. Based on this point, the apparent effort to effect the appearance of age and the work's overall stylistic weakness, the watercolor has been removed from Homer's body
of work.








Photo Credits: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Copyright 2008 by Mark Stevenson Paper Conservation. All rights reserved.  Revised: 08/23/08 01:59:29 -0400.