Microscopically reweaving a 1907 painting

The Kid Should See This

Go behind-the-scenes at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City to see how creative conservators need to be in order to restore the works in their care. The example above: Microscopically reweaving a 1907 painting.

To ready Paula Modersohn-Becker’s “Self Portrait” (1907) for MoMA’s reopening in October, conservator Diana Hartman tackles the question of how to repair holes in the painting’s canvas. She figures out that a curved needle typically used in eye surgery might allow her to avoid removing the work from its original stretcher.

reweaving a 1907 painting

And her inventiveness doesn’t end there: Using an adhesive made from a sturgeon bladder, she secures linen thread to the needle to darn the pieces back together with the help of a microscope. Hartman shows how she makes unobtrusive repairs, to keep viewers’ gaze focused on the portrait itself. “Just by doing this treatment,” Hartman says, “we’ve given a breath of fresh air to this painting.”

Diana Hartman
Paula Modersohn Becker self-portrait
Related watching from MoMA’s At the Museum documentary series: The meticulous work that goes into running MoMA.

Plus, watch these art restoration videos next: How art conservator Julian Baumgartner restores damaged paintings, The Conservation of The Assassination of Archimedes, Preparing Pilcher’s Hawk to fly again, and building a True-to-Life Butterfly for a Habitat Diorama.

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Rion Nakaya