Not only do conservators play a critical role in preserving art and artifacts, sometimes they discover them too. This week in Conservation News we highlight two stories where conservation treatments led to hidden treasures.

Barnes Foundation Museum Discovers Never-Before-Seen Cézanne Drawings

This article by Randy Kennedy, featured in the Arts & Design section of The New York Times, takes you inside a rare find: two never-before discovered sketches by artist Paul Cézanne.

In 1921, art collector Albert C. Barnes purchased five watercolors from friend Leo Stein, brother of writer Gertrude Stein. Stein was looking to sell some of Cézanne’s work in the US and asked Barnes for help in finding buyers. Barnes kept the five watercolors for himself at the bargain price of one hundred dollars apiece.

A recent conservation of the paintings revealed that two of the drawings contained sketches by Cézanne hidden between the layers of brown paper backing on the reverse side of the canvas.

“There were screams of delight,” said Barbara Buckley, senior director of conservation at the Barnes Foundation.  It is believed Barnes knew nothing of two drawings when he purchased them. The two drawings, one in graphite and one in graphite with watercolor, are unfinished. Nevertheless, the discovery has set Cézanne scholars agog, since new additions to the artist’s works are rare.

The Barnes Foundation is planning to exhibit these two art works in double-sided frames for public viewing from April 10 to May 18. You can read the full article here.

Conservators Discover A Hidden Treasure In Pissarro Painting

An article from Baltimore Museum of Art’s BMA Voices blog by Mary Sebera, The Stockman Family Foundation Senior Conservator at the BMA, casts a new light on Camille Pissarro’s Farmyard.

Conservators at the Baltimore Museum of Art stumbled upon what may have been Camille Pissarro’s first draft of Farmyard during a recent conservation of Strollers on a Country Road, La Varenne Saint Hilaire.

A close examination revealed both color and texture not consistent with the composition of Strollers on a Country Road, which led conservators to x-ray the painting. As suspected, the x-ray showed what conservators believe may be a first draft of Pissarro’s Farmyard completed one year before Strollers on a Country Road, which was finished in 1864. It is not unheard of for a painter to cover up one work with another but it is unusual and always of interest when discovered. You can read more on the BMA Voices Blog and see the x-rays of what they found.