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“Travels with Vincent: A Museum Conservator and Exhibition Adventures” with Sarah Fisher

April 22, 2021 @ 2:00 pm 3:00 pm EDT

Sarah Fisher will give a presentation at the Farnsworth Art Museum
Sarah Fisher will give a presentation at the Farnsworth Art Museum

Online via Zoom

How do the great master paintings you see in the wonderful temporary exhibitions here and around the world get to where they are going?  How are they safely packed? How are they protected from damage during travel?  And how does the lending museum know what conditions their prized paintings will meet in a far-off, temporary, exhibition space?  A pivotal figure in this process is the courier, often a conservator from the museum that owns the painting, who supervises and accompanies the painting every step of the way during its journey.  The entire process “takes a village” of staff members to succeed but conservators often are the connecting link in the undertaking and play a pivotal role.  Retired National Gallery chief painting conservator, Sarah Fisher, will talk about a few examples of her adventures as a courier with some of these masterworks but also about the serious planning and care that goes into preparing works of art for their participation in the exhibitions.

The talk will follow the paths of several great paintings from their home museum, the National Gallery of Art’s, walls to their temporary homes in exhibition spaces on the walls of international borrowing museums.  Museums plan exhibitions for a multitude of reasons but once that has happened and the dates are set, the conservation department may swing into action to make sure the artwork is in good enough condition to travel.  You’ll follow a few paintings each step of the way, from conservation treatments prior to exhibition, to careful inspection by the courier for insurance purposes prior to packing, to packing and transport to the plane.  A few choice, entertaining travel adventures will be mentioned.  On arrival at the borrowing museum, the process is reversed and the courier carefully attends the unpacking, inspection for insurance purposes, and hanging of the works in their new location, closely checking also the conditions in the exhibition space.  Among your companions in these stories will be great French impressionist and expressionist paintings, Venetian Renaissance paintings,  Dutch Baroque works, and other icons of our cultural heritage.

Sarah Fisher’s conservation career spanned 45 years.  She has an undergraduate degree in art history and minored in studio art, started her training in conservation in Italy working on flood-damaged paintings in Florence in 1967.  She continued a self-designed apprenticeship education in Europe, studying in conservation programs in Stuttgart, Zurich, Amsterdam and Brussels before returning to jobs in the U.S. in the Intermuseum Laboratory in Oberlin, Ohio and at the Balboa Art Conservation Center in San Diego prior to being hired by the National Gallery in 1981.  There she was initially Senior Conservator of Paintings before becoming head of the department about 10 years later.  She retired to Damariscotta with her husband in 2012, following years of visiting family in the area.  She has taken up her own painting since then, creating new art rather than taking care of old art, the great icons of our culture.

Cost: $10; free to members