Conservation: Materials and Materiality in Eric Fischl’s Tumbling Woman II

Chris on November 14, 2014

Conservator Helen Ingalls with Eric Fischl's Tumbling Woman II

Eric Fischl's Tumbling Woman II is a poignant and provocative sculpture that is on view in American Art's Lincoln Gallery. In addition to the artwork's historical underpinning and evocative pose, it maintains a distinctive materiality that causes a visitor to pause and engage with its subject.

The material, and materiality, of artworks are points of consideration for nearly all art historical and museum professionals; however, none are more acutely sensitive to their importance than conservators. Art conservation requires a scientific understanding of the media that constitutes an artwork. Potential treatments and preservation efforts rely on the proper identification of the specific paints, metals, adhesives, and other components of collection objects. Misidentification of any part of an artwork can compromise its appearance and lifespan. Extensive testing is often carried out by conservators to identify the specific paint ingredients, ink types, or metal alloys used in the artworks they encounter.

In discerning the specific ingredients used in the distinctive patina of Tumbling Woman II, our objects conservator, Helen Ingalls, was able to benefit from a resource sometimes afforded to contemporary art collections: the people who actually fabricated the object. Through conversations and an onsite visit, Ms. Ingalls learned that although the sculpture resembles aging iron, Tumbling Woman II is actually made of bronze. The patina that is applied to the bronze surface comprises a series of fired nitrates and chlorides that yield the distinctly iron-like appearance desired by the artist.

To find out more about this sculpture and our ongoing efforts to preserve it, please join us at 6:00 p.m. on November 18 in the museum's McEvoy Auditorium as Helen Ingalls presents " Gravitas and Gravity: Eric Fischl's Tumbling Woman II."