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New life for classic creations

Alta man specializes in art repair, restoration, conservation
By: Marci Seither, Special to the Colfax Record
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When it comes to original paintings, George Capron knows there is more to art than meets the eye. "Paintings have a life of their own," said Capron, who specializes in art repair, restoration and conservation. "There is a presence they have about them. Even a painting of Grandpa done by Grandma is a valuable record of time. The paint, condition and style are germane to the era." Capron has a master's degree in art from the University of California, Berkeley and taught studio courses at the college level as well as attaining a lifetime teaching credential for the state of California University System. Even though he is retired from teaching, the active Alta resident stays busy volunteering as a docent for the Crocker Art Museum and running his home based art restoration business. “People were always bringing me something to fix,” said Capron. He first started researching art restoration pieces over 35 years ago. “One day a woman brought me a painting of Venice. Her son had burned a hole in it with a cigarette. I thought I can't just jump into that so I got a lot of books and started doing research. I was able to fix her painting up to a point,” he said. That was the moment Capron realized how much he needed to still learn about the specialized art of restoration and repair. "It takes focus on the artist, on the materials and on the object itself,” said Capron, a member of the American Institute for Conservation of Artistic and Historic works. “Chemistry is a good background for this business because of the different solvents and materials you working with. Different artists have different techniques in painting. Some are very radical in mixing the art mediums; some take a very purist approach. It is important to know and understand art history to understand the artist’s intent.” Conservation in regard to approach a painting involves evaluating and removing it from its harmful and damaging environment to halt the deterioration. The next step is whether or not to pursue restoration, which often includes cleaning. Recently Capron was commissioned to work on a family heirloom painted in 1933 by Wayland Adams. “The gold gilded frame needed to be cleaned and carefully antiqued, but one of the main things I did was to take the old varnish off the painting which darkens as it ages, clean the painting, and apply a fresh coat of protective varnish,” he said. Each project is unique and can take hours of research prior to beginning the tedious work involved in preserving the original artwork. “One of the most violently damaged paintings I did was a sailing ship that involved three-dimensional silk sails. They were tattered and in such disrepair the man’s wife almost threw it away,” Capron explained. “The man asked me if I could save it since it had sentimental value.” Capron had to research the techniques used in forming the silk sails and found out that several other conservators had turned down the job due to the difficulty. “He was so happy that he cried when he got it back,” he said. A conservator has to be able to distinguish the materials that were available during the time the picture was created, which often limits use of modern supplies. “Another project that I took on required several phone calls to museums including Turkey to get the information I needed to begin restoring a wooden icon that was carved and painted in the 1700s,” Capron said. “Wood bores had hollowed it out and the piece was so fragile you could bend it in your hands.” Capron learned the animal hide glue was compatible to the historic piece and he carefully sealed the inside with the glue, allowing it to coat the bored-out grain of the historical artifact whicis from Tiblisi, Georgia and is now part of a private collection. “I retouched a few places on the face and hand but that was all that I did to the painting. It is very important to maintain the artifact to as close to the original condition as you can, even when it has been worn. There is a code of ethic in maintaining artifacts that include the philosophy of the original creation,” he said. When asked who his favorite artist is, Capron laughed, “My 8-year-old granddaughter, Carli!” Contact Capron at Fine Arts Restored by phone at 389-2321 or e-mail him at artrestoredFAR@yahoo.com.