New York Library Association. - The eBulletin

Garret Decker Hasbrouck Gets Make-Over Thanks to State Grant

The Stone Ridge Library has been awarded a 2014 Greater Hudson Heritage Conservation Treatment Grant for the restoration of a portrait of Garret Decker Hasbrouck, oil on canvas, painted by Francesco Anelli in 1840. The painting, measuring 70 ¾” x 54 ½” is a companion piece to the portrait of Julia Lawrence Hasbrouck, Garret’s wife, which underwent conservation treatment with funding from the Greater Hudson Heritage Network’s 2012 grant.

“The portraits, along with the building itself and 17 of Julia’s diaries are key components of the Library’s local history collection,” noted Library Director Jody Ford.  After moving to Stone Ridge from Greenwich Village, the Hasbrouck family lived in the 1798 stone house that now serves as the community library, donated by their daughter Julia Hasbrouck Dwight in 1909.  The diaries written between 1838 and 1879, record daily life in New York and family events, including steamboat rides to visits relatives in “The Ridge.”

Work on the portraits coincides with restoration work on the Library’s historic buildings, both the 1798 stone house and the adjacent 1811 stone and clapboard house, situated on historic Main Street in rural Ulster County and listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The paintings were stored off site at Westlake Conservators in Skaneateles (who did the work on Julia’s portrait) for their safe keeping during the beginning stages of the construction work, and were returned to the Library, Julia post-treatment and Garret pre-treatment, in April 2014 when they were welcomed with a public reception.

At the reception, Dr. William Rhoads, Professor Emeritus of Art History at SUNY, New Paltz discussed portraiture in the 19th century and shared his findings on Francesco Anelli, who arrived in New York from Milan in the mid 1830’s. Known for his historical and religious paintings as well as society portraiture, Anelli exhibited at the National Academy and the Boston Athenaeum. The Frick collection has his diary, and the Albany Institute has one of his paintings in its collection.  Among his body of work is the portrait of First Lady Julia Gardiner Tyler.

Susan Stessin, who publishes Julia’s diaries in a daily blog, “In My Pen and Power,” entertained guests by reading from one of Julia’s diaries, which, in addition to providing a glimpse of events in New York City, include opinions about the portraits, including her March 2, 1841 entry:

“A lovely, bright day, warm as May. At ten o’clock, Garret, myself, the three children, and two nurses, went to Mr Anelli’s. Our portraits, are nearly completed. They are both beautifull in design, & execution.”

The portraits are reported to be in overall stable condition, according to Conservator Marie Bruno of Arte Artigianato Restauro in Kingston, New York, who will do the conservation work on the Garret portrait. But she notes that examination under fluorescent light revealed a number of damages that have occurred in the aging process, the most prominent of which include traction cracks and “alligatoring” and oxidation (due to the use of bitumen, a dark paint made from coal tar). Treatment will include cleaning, correcting lined tears, including a one-inch gouge on Garret’s chin, and correcting discolored varnish, using techniques that can be easily reversed.  A final coat of synthetic resin varnish will be applied to provide protection from environmental pollutants. These methods reflect innovative techniques in the field of conservation that embrace a noninvasive approach.

The Library Board purchased beautiful period reproduction frames for the portraits, which provides protection in addition to added aesthetic appeal. “Lacking any documentation about original frames, we can only speculate that perhaps they may have been sold at one point in the portraits’ long history,” said Ford.

Work on Garret Decker Hasbrouck’s portrait will begin sometime in fall 2014 and will take approximately 10 to 12 weeks. Once the work is completed, the Library will host a program to share the conservation process with the public, using photographs that document the work. Additional programs will be planned ongoing to highlight the Library’s local history collection, including the Hasbrouck portraits and diaries.

"We are thrilled that both of these lovely paintings, an important part of the Library's history, will be fully restored,” said Robert Miraldi, President of the Library’s Board of Trustees. “The charm of our buildings will be enhanced even more when this is done.”

Details and updates about the portraits are available on the Library’s website, stoneridgelibrary.org.