The Seamstress

Joseph Rodefer DeCamp

(b. Cincinnati, Ohio, 1858–d. Boca Grande, Fla., 1923)

Title: 

The Seamstress

Date: 

1916

Medium: 
Oil on canvas
Size: 

36 5/16 x 28 3/16 in. (92.1 x 71.6 cm)

Museum Purchase, Gallery Fund

Accession Number: 

16.4

Francis Sinclair Barbarin, born in 1833 in Newport, Rhode Island, was appointed Assistant Curator of the Corcoran in 1873, the same year MacLeod became Curator. A man of wide-ranging interests, Barbarin studied dentistry and maintained a dental practice in Washington before his appointment as Assistant Curator. It seems likely that he secured the position through his connection to William Wilson Corcoran, whose secretary, Anthony Hyde, was Barbarin’s father-in-law. Upon MacLeod’s retirement in 1889, Barbarin became Curator, a position he held until his death in 1900. Like MacLeod, Barbarin was charged with the responsibility of maintaining the appearance of the paintings, and attended to the varnish on many of them.
Lance Mayer and Gay Myers are independent painting conservators based at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum, New London, Connecticut, where they also serve as consulting conservators. They are the authors of the book American Painters on Technique: The Colonial Period to 1860 (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2011).
Dare Myers Hartwell has been Head of Conservation at the Corcoran Gallery of Art since 1983.
Robert Scott Wiles was born in 1926 in Portland, Oregon, and graduated from the University of Oregon. He began his career as a museum assistant at the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, Virginia, leaving there in 1955 to apprentice with Russell Quandt, the Conservator at the Corcoran. In the 1960s Wiles had a painting conservation studio in Georgetown, which he left to return to the Corcoran after Quandt’s death in 1970. At the Corcoran Wiles maintained a studio where he worked on paintings for the museum as well as private clients. His institutional clients included the United States Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis, Colonial Williamsburg, Mount Vernon, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and the New Orleans Museum of Art. Many conservators began their career in Wiles’ studio, and his meticulous craftsmanship, aesthetic sense, and technical perfectionism set a high standard for those working with him. He retired from the Corcoran in 1983 and died in 1997. (Adapted from the obituary in the AIC Newsletter, November 1997.)

Barbara A. Ramsay has been Director of Conservation Services at the ARTEX Conservation Laboratory, Landover, Maryland, since 1999.
Russell J. Quandt was born in 1919 and attended Yale University. He began his career at the Lyman-Allyn Art Museum in his native New London, Connecticut. After moving to New York he continued his training as a restorer at M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., and with Caroline and Sheldon Keck, who were among the leading conservators of the day. Mrs. Keck in particular encouraged Quandt’s professional ambitions and was instrumental in his becoming the Conservator at the Corcoran, a part-time position which he held from 1950 to 1969. He also maintained a private conservation practice in his home with the administrative and curatorial assistance of his wife Eleanor Swenson Quandt. In his private work he served as Conservator for the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum in Williamsburg, Virginia, and treated paintings for the Colonial Williamsburg collection as well as other institutions. Because of their association with Colonial Williamsburg both Quandts developed an expertise in eighteenth-century American painting and were featured in the film The Art of the Conservator. This film, made by Colonial Williamsburg in 1965-66, was shot largely in the Quandt’s home studio and at the Carnegie Mellon Institute, where conservation scientist Robert Feller collaborated with them in their research on the early American paintings featured in the film. Russell Quandt provided training for both local and European students, including his successor at the Corcoran Robert Scott Wiles. He died in 1970 at the age of 50.

Elizabeth Steele has been Head of Conservation at The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., since 1990.
Stephen Pichetto was an important figure in the art world in the first half of the twentieth century. He was born in New York in 1887. Although nothing can be verified about his early education and training, he had established a restoration studio in Manhattan by 1908 and between then and his death in 1949 he became one of the era’s most preeminent art restorers, consultants, and advisers, as well as a wealthy man. He had a close relationship with Lord Duveen, the famous art dealer, and served as principal adviser and sole restorer to Samuel Kress, whose collection of Italian paintings today forms part of the core holdings of the National Gallery of Art as well as many other American museums. Pichetto eventually served as Consultant Restorer at both the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art, maintaining a studio in each museum as well as his private practice.

Harold F. Cross served briefly as the Corcoran’s Conservator in 1949, perhaps during the interregnum between the retirement of Louis J. Kohlmer and the arrival of Russell Quandt. He was born in 1907 and graduated from Harvard in 1930, where he also did graduate work in the later 1930s, but it is not known if this included conservation training. By 1955, however, he wrote in the Twenty-fifth Anniversary Report for the Harvard Class of 1930 that he was leaving the conservation profession.
Louis J. Kohlmer was born in 1870 in Massachusetts. Little is known of his early life or training, except that he lived in New York before arriving in Washington about 1899, and in 1900 was the workshop foreman at Veerhoff picture gallery. At this time there was an altercation with Veerhoff that was written up in The Washington Post. After this incident there is no further information until 1931when Kohlmer began his career at the Corcoran at the age of 61. He worked at the museum until 1949 when he was 79, and died in 1954.

William MacLeod, born in 1811, was the son of the proprietor of the Washington Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. His career was that of artist and teacher, and he painted local scenes including views of the U.S. Capitol, the Potomac River, and Harper’s Ferry. Three of his paintings are in the Corcoran’s collection.

Sian Jones has maintained a private practice in Baltimore for the last 20 years and prior to that was a painting conservator at the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

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