A Gathering of Friends and Art Lovers

reception 2What do you get when you mix art, friends, good conversation, and good food? A wonderful evening at the Santa Bárbara Mission Archive-Library. On May 22, 2014 the Archive-Library hosted approximately 80 people for an evening featuring a presentation by art conservator Scott Haskins and a reception, culminating in a tour of our series of 21 California Mission paintings by Edwin Deakin from the late 19th century.

As our guests arrived they were greeted by our volunteers who guided them from the front of the mission to the Bonaventure Hall located behind the main mission structure. There they were treated to a lively presentation form art conservator Scott Haskins from Fine Art Conservation Laboratories who gave them a behind the scenes view of some of the extraordinary measures that are sometimes needed to restore historically significant oil paintings and murals.

Mr. Haskins shared pictures of the work he did for the Mission Inn in Riverside on a series of California Mission paintings by Henry Chapman Ford. The audience was enthralled by descriptions of the techniques needed to save paintings that had been exposed to the elements. In one case a painting had been exposed to rain resulting in the canvas shrinking, forcing the conservators to lift off the layer of oil paint and placing it on a new canvas.

Mr. Haskins then discussed his work on the Santa Bárbara Mission Archive-Library’s collection of Deakin paintings. Thankfully, he stated the paintings were in fairly good condition despite being over 100 years old. In most cases they needed old, discolored varnish removed before cleaning and re-varnishing. In addition the frames needed to be repaired and to be restored to their original color. This conservation project was begun thanks to a leadership gift from Marc and Pauline Sylvain, who issued a challenge to all in attendance. They would match each donation up to $20,000.00 made by October 31, 2014 and designated for the conservation of the Deakin series in SBMAL’s collection!

After the talk, Fr. Richard McManus, guardian and director of Old Mission Santa Barbara, presented a donation to the Archive-Library to sponsor the restoration of the painting of Mission Santa Barbara from the Deakin series. The Franciscan Friars from the Old Mission, who take a vow of poverty, had donated the funds from their own personal stipend they receive monthly to take care of their personal needs. This donation was greeted with hearty applause and the SBMAL director announced the that the Archive-Library was launching an “adopt a mission painting” program looking for sponsors for all the paintings in the series. This call was immediately answered by Mary Louise Days who pledged to sponsor Mission Santa Inés! Ms. Days’ family connection to that mission extends for generations, tracing back to the Thomas J. Donahue family who lived there for sixteen years in the late 19th century.

The audience then was led to the Archive-Library Conference Room where they could see all 21 paintings of the California Mission painted by Edwin Deakin, including the painting of Mission San Juan Capistrano which was making its debut fresh from being fully restored! Guests then wandered out onto the Portico to enjoy refreshments.

It was a wonderful evening for all in attendance and a very successful beginning to our art conservation efforts. Stay tuned for an update on the “adopt a mission painting” program. And if you are interested in helping us out, please contact the Monica Orozco at director@sbmal.org or by calling (805) 682-4713 ext. 152. But don’t wait too long–they are going fast!

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