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Robert Kipniss is an American painter, author and printmaker born in 1931 in Brooklyn, New York. He is known for his landscapes executed in subtle tones, typically set at dusk or at night. One of his oil paintings on canvas, Untitled #2, recently came to the McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory just outside of Cleveland, Ohio for paintings conservation treatment.

Robert Kipniss, Untitled #2, before treatment

The oil painting features a landscape. Three buildings and a large tree crowded together in the center of the painting which is surrounded by grasslands. A tree encroaches on the viewer’s left side with only a smattering of leaves left on its branches. A soft glow emanates throughout the landscape creating an atmospheric effect found in many of his works.

A detail of the scratches, tears, and dents

Over the years, the painting sustained some damage and required paintings conservation treatment. Stefan Dedecek, Conservator of Paintings, Polychrome Surfaces, and Murals, of McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory performed a condition assessment before the paintings conservation treatment.

The painting was overall obscured by an accumulation of dirt and discolored varnish. There was impact damage, including tears and dents, in the support. The tears follow two long scratches in the middle foreground. Areas of paint loss and abrasions were found throughout the painting. The artwork was also mounted to a weak four-bar stretcher that was warped and missing some keys. Its simple gilded frame suffered some abrasions, but the damage was minimal.

A detail shows dents in the support

For the paintings conservation treatment of the Kipniss painting, Conservator Dedecek first removed the flat molding frame. He then consolidated insecure areas of paint film with adhesive, especially around the scratches and tears in the support.

Distortions in the canvas were removed as far as possible. Once distortions were mitigated, the tears were mended.

Dirt and discolored varnished were reduced once the structural repairs were complete. An isolation coat of varnish was then applied before retouching areas of loss. Losses were filled with gesso putty then retouched with acrylic paints. A final coat of varnish was applied.

Robert Kipniss, Untitled #2, After Treatment

The weak stretcher bar was reinforced with a custom-made horizontal crossbar and a new archival backing board was installed along with updated hanging hardware. The painting was then rehoused in its original frame.

After the paintings conservation treatment, the structural repairs improved the stability of the artwork. Surface cleaning and compensation of losses returned to the painting to its intended aesthetic.

Robert Kipniss, now age 90, has artwork in over eighty-eight institutions. In his artist’s statement on his website, Kipniss explains, “I have lived my life as I dreamed of doing as a young man.” He earned Bachelors of Art in English literature in 1952 and Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa in 1954, and eventually returned to New York. Since 1998, Kipniss has lived and maintained a studio on the Hudson River in Westchester County, New York. His career is marked by works in some of the most important collections in the United states, honorary degrees, awards, and innumerable solo exhibitions. Kipinss has remained an active artist and author.

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