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Sculpture Conservation Recap!

Throughout the month of May, the Association for Public Art’s (aPA) outdoor sculpture conservation team provided annual maintenance and specialized treatment for a number of beloved public artworks in Philadelphia. The following is a look at some of the work our conservators did this spring.

Learn more about our conservation program or make a donation to support this important work.

Four limestone sculptures in the Central Terrace of the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial on Kelly Drive — The Ploughman, The Slave, The Miner, and The Immigrant — received treatment designed for use on limestone. Our conservation team cleaned the sculptures and applied a special protective surface coating to help protect them from further deterioration.

Photo Alec Rogers © 2015 for Association for Public Art

 

For The Spirit of Enterprise (1950-1960) by Jacques Lipchitz (also in the Central Terrace), our conservators removed deteriorating lead “seating” material from a large gap in-between the bronze sculpture plinth and granite base. They replaced it with silicon caulk and a polyurethane sealant to keep out moisture and improve its appearance.

The treatment helps prevent the corrosion of bronze caused by acid rain.

Albert Wolff’s The Lion Fighter (1858) in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art — as well as approximately 30 bronze sculptures — received a special protective wax coating.  The treatment helps prevent the corrosion of bronze caused by acid rain. The sculptures are first washed to remove surface dirt, and any entrapped dirt from the existing wax is removed with solvents and a cloth. The existing wax is then reconsolidated and a new layer is applied with a natural bristle brush and heat (propane torch). Afterward, the bronze is gently buffed.

Along Kelly Drive, General Ulysses S. Grant (1897) by Daniel Chester French and Edward C. Potter received special treatment for its granite base. Our conservators removed mortar and re-pointed the masonry joints in the upper section, and repaired and replaced the lead “seating” material where the bronze meets the base. The bronze was also washed and a special protective wax coating was applied.

Our conservators cleaned, gently polished, and applied a clear protective surface coating to the four inscribed granite plaques on the base of Abraham Lincoln (1871) by Randolph Rogers (also on Kelly Drive). The inscriptions were eroded and had become illegible.

A conservator works on Jesus Breaking Bread by Walter Erlebacher
Photo Caitlin Martin © 2015 for Association for Public Art

As our conservators carried out their work, it came to the aPA’s attention that Jesus Breaking Bread (1976) by Walter Erlebacher outside of the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul showed signs of corrosion, particularly on the figure’s arms. Upon the aPA’s recommendation, the Cathedral Basilica engaged our conservation team to treat the artwork. The team worked on the corroded surfaces and significantly improved the sculpture’s appearance.

 

Related Artworks

Artwork

General Ulysses S. Grant

(1897)

by Daniel Chester French (1850 - 1931), Edward C. Potter (1857 - 1923)

Kelly and Fountain Green Drives

Just four days after the death of General Grant in 1885, the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art) formed a committee to create a fund for erecting an appropriate memorial.

Artwork

The Spirit of Enterprise

(1958)

by Jacques Lipchitz (1891 - 1973)

Central Terrace of Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial Sculpture Garden (north of Boathouse Row on Kelly Drive)

The massive bronze installed in the Central Terrace of the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial represents America’s “Constructive Enterprise” — “the vigor, the power of harnessed nature, or the strength of men harnessing nature and making it conform to their uses and desires.”

Artwork

Abraham Lincoln

(1871)

by Randolph Rogers (1825 - 1892)

Kelly and Sedgely Drives

Philadelphia was one of the first cities in the nation to erect a monument to Lincoln after he was assassinated.

Artwork

The Lion Fighter

(1858; cast 1892)

by Albert Wolff (1814 - 1892)

Philadelphia Museum of Art at the Benjamin Franklin Parkway

The original Lion Fighter sits as a companion piece to August Kiss’s Mounted Amazon Attacked by a Panther on the steps of the National Museum in Berlin. Philadelphia’s cast was moved to the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1929, where – as in Berlin – it accompanies a bronze cast of the Amazon.

Artwork

Jesus Breaking Bread

(1976)

by Walter Erlebacher (1933 - 1991)

Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, Logan Square, 18th and Race Streets

Commissioned for the 41st International Eucharistic Congress, which met in Philadelphia in 1976, Walter Erlebacher’s sculpture presents a figure of Jesus holding two pieces of broken bread.

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