Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Mucha Masterpiece at Poster Mountain Episode 3

I always feel that by calling these episodes they should start out with an epic introduction like the Star Wars movies...

A long time ago, in a galaxy far away... A Mucha has been linen backed. It is about to lose the facing that held it together during the troubled times of the demount. So it must stand on it's own during prep, masking and airbrushing until it can finally return to it's full glory.

Too much? Yeah, you're probably right. Back to reality...

Pictured: The newly backed Mucha with the facing on after having dried overnight. How about that amazing Dante 3 sheet in the background, not bad either?

We left the facing on overnight because if we had tried to pull it off the poster while any area was still damp we could have done a lot of damage. The next morning I pulled it off inch by careful inch. We work at an angle while doing this because it puts less strain on the poster while the facing is rolled away.

Pictured: I am keeping a careful eye on the ragged edges of the poster because even though they have been backed I didn't want to pull anymore off by being careless.

Pictured: Here I am checking a crack to make sure I won't delaminate even a small area of the poster when I continue to pull the hollytex back.

When we got down to the last corner we realized that we had made a mistake. We had used a piece of hollytex that had previously been used and had some airbrush paint on one side. John thought that we had rolled the facing out with the airbrushing on the opposite side of the poster. Turns out we were wrong. However, unlike the woman who took it upon herself to restore the Ecce Homo in Spain we are trained professionals who can handle this. It is also one of the reasons that we use materials that are reversible.

Pictured: My first thought when I saw this was "Oh, crap!"  My second was "We can fix that!"

Pictured: For whatever reason it had not stuck to the gold paint much.

I grabbed my favorite tool, my shaped and sharpened palette knife. I was able to shave off the paint without harming the ink or paper.

Pictured: "Don't knick the Mucha, don't knick the Mucha!" I didn't have an issue getting this paint off, however, and we were able to take care of it quickly.

Before we could begin any prep work, the varnish had to be dealt with. You can see the varnish in the pictures below. The areas that look foggy or glazed are the ones that have varnish on them. You can also see that not only is it affecting how glossy the print looks, but in some areas it has changed the pigment color. If we had left the varnish on top any pigment we put on the poster would be sitting on top of that varnish and it would never look seamless. John tried several different types of solvent before he found one that worked to remove the varnish.

Pictured: Varnish sucks and whatever kind this was, was particularly resistant and troublesome. As we found out during the demount.

Pictured:  As you can see from all of the weird patchy areas whoever put varnish on this piece did a disservice to it. John had to try several different things before he was able to break it down enough to remove it, but it was worth the time spent.

With the varnish taken care of, the next step was prep. For how old this piece was and the conservation processes it had been through it was in good condition. The border needed the most attention, but there were also some large holes in the image that I patched using vintage paper.

Pictured: I patched 4 holes with vintage paper in this area, but you can see that there are numerous smaller holes that had to be filled with compound.

Pictured: Here is a great shot of the border patches before I glued them in.

Pictured: This is one of my favorite pictures. Proof for my grandchildren that I worked on a Mucha!

 The areas where paper is missing and the white Masa substrate shines through are the obvious issues, which we fix by mitering in vintage paper patches. What you don't notice until you start running your hands over a piece are all of those hairline cracks, like the ones I talked about during the demount process. If we had left those unattended when we airbrushed anywhere near them they would have stood out like a sore thumb.  So, we used a filling compound for those cracks and any holes that were smaller than a quarter.

Pictured: The border has been repaired, as well as all of the holes and cracks filled.

Pictured: A close up of some of the cracks I have been going on about after they have been filled with compound and smoothed flat.

After prep comes masking and the task of restoring this beautiful piece back to perfect condition. But to see that you'll have to check back tomorrow for the last installment of our Mucha series.

I also want to let our loyal readers know that we have begun work on a video blog. This project will probably take a while to come to fruition, but we have begun putting short segments up on Facebook, so you can go to to take a look and while you're there go ahead and like our Facebook page!

It should be noted that several crucial steps in our process have been omitted. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us via email at or by phone at 818.882.1214. Also check out our websites: and Please feel free to leave comments or questions on the blog!

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