Conserving the Art of Early California

By Monica Orozco, SBMAL Director

Detail from Deakin painting of Mission San Antonio de Padua.

Detail from Deakin painting of Mission San Antonio de Padua.

One of the crown jewels of the Santa Bárbara Mission Archive-Library is a beautiful and historically significant series of oil paintings of the twenty-one Missions of Alta California by Edwin Deakin. It is one of three complete series (two in oil, one in water color) Deakin painted at the end of the 19th century.

At the Santa Bárbara Mission Archive-Library we are embarking on a conservation project. Thanks to a very generous leadership gift from our friends Marc and Pauline Sylvain, we have begun the restoration of the twenty-one Deakin Mission paintings in our collection. This series was a gift to the Franciscan Friars of California from Mr. Howard Willoughby and have been entrusted to the care of the Santa Bárbara Mission Archive-Library.

On “Thursday May 22 at 6:00 pm you can get a sneak peak into our efforts to conserve these wonderful paintings with a special event featuring art conservator Scott M. Haskins of Fine Art Conservation Laboratories. This presentation,“Preserving California History: Conserving the Art of Henry Chapman Ford and Edwin Deakin” will be followed by a tour of our twenty-one Deakin paintings and a reception.

The twenty-one paintings in this series are important historical artifacts. Most of the missions in the paintings are depicted in a state of decline. As the mission-era ended, the structures lost their value except for the building materials that could be re-purposed by locals. Roof tiles were used to cover other structures, leaving the mission walls exposed to the elements. Also, natural disasters and fires took their toll. It was the land that was valuable as the rancho economy grew in late nineteenth-century California.

The work produced by artists such as Deakin, Henry Chapman Ford, and Edward Borein, helped revive interest in mission-era California. It is thanks in part to their art that Californians began to appreciate their history once again and invest in conserving, and in some cases, restoring the missions and other structures that played an important role in early California.

If you are interested in helping us conserve these paintings by “adopting” a mission painting,  please contact me by email (director@sbmal.org) or by phone (805) 682-4713 ext. 152.

“Preserving California History: Conserving the Art of Henry Chapman Ford and Edwin Deakin” a presentation by Scott M. Haskins, A tour of our twenty-one Deakin Paintings and reception will follow.

Thursday, May 22, 2014 from 6:00 to 8:00 pm

While the event is free, space is limited. Please RSVP through email at research@sbmal.org or by phone, (805) 682-4713 ext 124.

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