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Kunsthaus Zürich

Giovanni Segantini
‘Girl Knitting in Savognin’

Conservation project

Giovanni Segantini’s ‘Girl Knitting in Savognin’ was acquired by the Gottfried Keller Foundation in 1909 and is part of the collection at the Kunsthaus Zürich. The picture, probably one of the great Alpine painter’s most popular works, is a superb example of Segantini’s Divisionist painting, in which each area of colour resolves itself into countless fine flecks of paint and nuances. It shows his favourite model, the Segantinis’ maid Barbara ‘Baba’ Uffer, bent over her knitting.

Problems with the paint layer
Problems with the paint layer were first noted in the restoration file in 1970. At the time, a number of areas where the paint was lifting were consolidated using beeswax. Almost 50 years later, this major work is back in the Kunsthaus’s restoration workshop. Poor adhesion of the paint layer has already resulted in numerous tiny areas of flaking.

Conservation measures
To achieve a durable consolidation of the paint layer, a number of binding agents and mixtures were first tested for adhesive strength and penetration to see which was most suited to the work. The best results were obtained with an aqueous solution of gelatin and methyl cellulose. Once consolidation is complete, areas of paint loss will be filled and retouched. The framing will then be optimized to drastically reduce vibration of the canvas and thus arrest the ongoing destabilization of the paint layer.

The work is expected to be back on show in the collection from January 2019.

Restorers: Anita Höss / Sandra Weber
Project period: June–December 2018
Supported by: Ars Rhenia, foundation for the transregional promotion of art and culture

Fig. 1
Giovanni Segantini
Girl Knitting in Savognin, 1888
Oil on canvas, 53 × 91,5 cm
Kunsthaus Zürich,
loan of the Gottfried Keller Foundation, 
Federal Office of Culture, Berne, 1909
Fig. 1
Giovanni Segantini
Girl Knitting in Savognin, 1888
Oil on canvas, 53 × 91,5 cm
Kunsthaus Zürich,
loan of the Gottfried Keller Foundation,
Federal Office of Culture, Berne, 1909
Fig. 2
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 3