In the late 1960s, Salvador Dalí created a series of lithographs with playing card imagery measuring roughly 26” x 20.” Much of Dalí’s work is characterized by his distinctive use of light and shadow, creating luminous, satiny areas of light and deep, velvety shadows. The lithographs are noteworthy, therefore, for their two-dimensionality.
A set of 20 of these Dalí lithographs that came to CCAHA for conservation. They exhibited some condition issues common to paper: staining and creasing. Conservation treatment can entail everything from washing paper in carefully-titrated chemical solutions to mending tears to inpainting with watercolors. Every treatment, whether it is on a book, photograph, or work of art on paper, is the result of careful testing—conservation science always aims to find the best solution to treat each object. The goal of conservation is stabilization so that the long-term life of the object is ensured.
For the Dalí lithographs, the treatment involved using grated vinyl erasers to reduce the surface dirt and staining. A chemical solution of ethanol and deionized water was used to relax the creases and prevent tidelines in the work. As the final step of treatment, the lithographs were flattened under weights. The weights were not placed directly on the lithographs. Instead, they were placed on blotters—thick, absorbent pieces of paper made of highly purified fibers.
Many objects finish their treatment process in the Housing & Framing department. “Housing” is anything that holds an object, from acid-free folders to museum-ready frames. The owner of the Dalí lithographs did not plan to display them, and therefore opted to have the works placed into acid-free folders that will keep them safe in long-term storage.
The Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts (CCAHA) is a nonprofit conservation facility in Philadelphia specializing in the treatment of works on paper, photographs, and books. Founded in 1977, CCAHA serves both private individuals and nonprofit cultural institutions. For questions contact Amy Heuer.