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Stefan Dedecek, Conservator of Paintings, Murals and Polychrome Surfaces, recently performed a conservation treatment of an Aminah Robinson painting as well as a set of doors originally installed at the home of the artist. While we shared information about the treatment of the doors and more about the Columbus, Ohio artist in a previous post, “Knock! Knock! Welcoming Aminah Robinson: A Painted Surface Conservation Treatment”, the self-portrait is an early piece with what appears to be a bit different style from Robinson’s later work.

The painting is a self-portrait of a young Aminah Robinson, then Brenda Lynn Robinson, sitting upright with her hands folded under her chin, and elbows resting on a table. Her eyes look outward to the viewer. A large white rabbit peeks its head from a cavity in the top of the sitter’s head.

A detail before treatment of the face and rabbit

The color palette is somewhat subdued with blues, greens, and browns, the brushstrokes are visible, and the artwork is executed in just one medium: oil. It seems in great contrast to the bold colors and variety of media used in her later works. The painting is signed and dated the artwork at the viewer’s top right corner as Self Portrait + Rabbit (Pinkco) 5/9/59. Robinson, born in 1940, would have been only nineteen years old at the time.

The painting appeared in good condition overall, but upon examination it was clear that conservation treatment of the Aminah Robinson artwork was needed. Before treatment, there was a considerable accumulation of dirt and dust on the surface. In addition, there were localized areas of flaking paint as well as small scattered paint losses which were most noticeable in the viewer’s right in the upper background.

The paint film was cracked and cupped. Although there is no varnish, the paint film retained a gloss of the oil medium. The canvas support was significantly weakened mainly along the upper edge, and there were small tears running along the edge.

Conservation treatment of the Aminah Robinson painting began with a local consolidation of lifting paint followed by a reduction of surface dirt with chelating agents. Since the canvas was so weak, the painting was removed from its stretcher then reinforced with a lining. The canvas was then reattached to its original stretcher.

An isolation varnish was applied and then the losses were filled and inpainted to create a visually continuous surface. A final protective varnish with an Ultra-violet (UV) light inhibitor was applied to the surface completing the conservation treatment of the Aminah Robinson painting. The artwork was then reframed before its return to the client.

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