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The National Museum of American Illustration


     The National Museum of American Illustration's (NMAI) historic Tiffany murals have recently been stabilized after the completion of an eight-week summer work program by a conservation team from Winterthur/University of Delaware. During the months of June, July and August of this year, visitors at the NMAI were able to witness the most prestigious conservation institution in the world, restoring one the most historically significant murals in the United States.

In April of 2006, the NMAI contacted Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC) regarding the conservation of its treasured early 20th century Treillage Loggia Murals by Tiffany Studios' James Wall Finn. These murals are the surviving works of what had been two separate mural commissions done by this Tiffany Studios artist for Vernon Court in 1898. The murals have suffered from years of neglect, a leaky roof and invasive attempts at restoration prior to acquisition by the NMAI. Judy and Laurence Cutler (NMAI Co-founders) sought Winterthur to restore the NMAI's Tiffany murals due to the program's international renown. "The Tiffany murals, as neglected as they were, still delighted visitors to the museum. After stabilization and cleaning, they are more radiant and one can see details, which were unrevealed before. We anxiously look forward to Phase II next spring," stated Laurence Cutler.

Above (l-r): Nadège Jacobè (University of Paris, Panthéon- Sorbonne), Amber Kerr-Allison (Graduate Fellow, WUDPAC Ph.D. candidate), Joyce Hill Stoner (WUDPAC Professor, Art Conservation) and Judy Goffman Cutler (NMAI, Co-founder & Director) admire the restoration efforts from scaffolding during the project's first phase.

     After assessing the condition of the murals and taking their historical and national import into account, Winterthur chose the NMAI to host an eight-week Summer Work Project-a program in which WUDPAC students complement their course work with practical applications of conservation outside of the classroom setting.

Ms. Amber Kerr-Allison (Graduate Fellow, WUDPAC Ph.D. candidate) and Ms. Nadège Jacobè (University of Paris, Panthéon-Sorbonne), along with Prof. Richard C. Wolbers (WUDPAC Associate Professor, Coordinator of Science, and Adjunct Paintings Conservator) directly oversaw Phase I of this noteworthy project.

Above (l-r): Amber Kerr-Allison and Nadège Jacobè work high on the scaffolding in the NMAI's
Treillage Loggia.

     Over the course of the summer, the conservation team brought the Tiffany murals to an advanced state of complete stabilization-a tremendous feat, considering the size of the murals and their unstable condition. The conservation treatment included reinforcing the structural condition of the murals, improving the overall aesthetic condition by removing surface grime, tear mending, cleaning and removal of discolored and incorrect overpaint.

Above: Prof. Richard C. Wolbers examines a section of the mural.

   Due to the time constraints of the program, the conservation team will complete the second phase of the treatment process, which involves applying paint to the areas of the murals which have suffered paint loss. The NMAI will again host a summer work project in 2008 to complete the inpainting.

Visitors at the NMAI are now able to witness James Wall Finn's Tiffany Treillage Loggia Murals closer to their original appearance in 1898. Due to the cleaning and consolidation of the murals, the colors are brilliant once again and James Wall Finn's artistic mastery is as radiant as it was over a century ago.

The Museum is open for guided tours by advance reservation only. Groups tours are welcome by reservation year-round. Tickets $25: Seniors 60+ and military w/id, $22, Children 12 & under not admitted. For more information telephone 401-851-8949 ext. 18 or

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Eric Brocklehurst
National Museum of American Illustration
492 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, RI 02840
T:401-851-8949 ext. 18, F: 401-851-8974,

The National Museum of American Illustration is a nonprofit, independent, educational and aesthetic organization. It is located in Newport, RI on Bellevue Avenue at Vernon Court (1898), a Beaux-Arts adaptation of an 18th century French chateau built by architects, Carreré & Hastings. It is the first national museum devoted exclusively to American illustration art. Illustration consists of original artwork created to be reproduced in books, magazines, newspapers and advertisements. 'Golden Age' paintings by such luminaries as Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish, NC Wyeth, and 75 others are displayed in 'Gilded Age' architecture, creating a unique union of art and architecture- a national treasure. The Museum is administered by the American Civilization Foundation, a nonprofit organization with the goal to present the best possible venue for appreciating the greatest collection of illustration art; the most American of American art.

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National Museum of American Illustration | 492 Bellevue Avenue | Newport | RI | 02840