Robert Organ 1917–2011
Robert Organ was a founding member of ICOM-CC, having been part of the original group that consolidated the ICOM Commission for the Care of Paintings (1948) and the International Subject Committee for Museum Laboratories (1950) into the ICOM Committee for Conservation in 1967 in Brussels. At that time, he was also named first Coordinator of the Metals Conservation Working Group, for which Rutherford Gettens was Assistant Coordinator. Robert served as Coordinator of the Metals group until 1984—before term limits were introduced—and likely holds the record for CO longevity.??During the final triennium of his collaboration with ICOM-CC (1981-1984 Copenhagen, 7th Triennial), he also served as Vice-Chair under Brian Arthur.?? Robert received the ICOM-CC Medal, in absentia, at The Hague Triennial Conference in 2005 for his significant contributions to the field of scientific conservation. It was presented and accepted on his behalf by Nicholas Stanley-Price.
With the death of Robert Organ in 2011, I lost not only one of my oldest friends, but my mentor for almost sixty years of my life as a conservator. In 1954 I was a trainee conservation technician at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and first met Robert at the British Museum Research Laboratory. I was treated with so much consideration and kindness, whilst he listened to my problems of treating Saxon iron that had been conserved decades earlier by boiling in beeswax, I left that day with the feeling that I had taken him the most important problem in the world and that I was joining the most important profession in the world. As I moved to other museums in the UK, Robert moved first to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada and then in 1967 to his final conservation home at the Conservation Analytical Laboratory of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. He encouraged me to follow in his footsteps to Canada in 1971, and he had a major impact on the design of the laboratories at both National Historic Sites and the Canadian Conservation Institute.
A man for all seasons, Robert helped design my fishing cottage on a lake in Quebec so that I would not freeze at minus 35°C.
At meetings around the world, we would meet with Robert and his wonderful wife Barbara, who never failed to remember all our names and make us all so welcome.
Robert was a shy man, but he was eventually persuaded to run as Vice-Chair of ICOM-CC. At a Directory Board meeting in Sitges, Spain in 1982, along with Norman Bromelle, Gaël de Guichen, Westby Percival-Prescott and many old friends, we rewrote the statutes of the Committee.
The last words I had in person with Robert were at an annual ICOM lunch meeting in Washington where he toasted my election as Chair of the ICOM Advisory Committee and ended by saying, “You realize, Brian, you are now the Old Guard.”
His genius was that he took really complex conservation problems and provided simple, scientific and straightforward treatments for conservators to use. His impact on artifact conservation was enormous. We shall not see his like again.
- Brian V. Arthur
Paul Philippot 1925-2015
Colin Pearson 1941-2016
ICOM-CC Vice Chair (2011-2014), Vinod Daniel, presents Colin Pearson with the ICOM-CC Medal during the 17th Triennial Conference in Melbourne, Australia, September 2014.
Françoise Flieder 1929–2017
A member of the International Council of Museums from November 1960, Françoise was an active member of the original Subject Committee for Museum Laboratories and one of the founders of ICOM-CC in 1967. Over the decades she served for three triennial periods on the Directory Board, including as Vice-Chair. She was a Coordinator in the initial nucleus of Working Groups and was deeply involved in the groups’ activities for more than twenty years. Françoise served as Chair of the ICOM-CC Fund at its inception and remained an active voting member of ICOM-CC until her death. She was awarded the ICOM-CC Medal in 1996.
Paolo Cadorin 1918–2014
Dr. Paolo Cadorin was a founding member of ICOM-CC and served on the Directory Board from 1967 to 1981. He was the founding Coordinator, also in 1967, of the Working Group on 20th Century Paintings (renamed the Modern and Contemporary Art Working Group in 1981), a position that he occupied until 1990. Originally from Venice, Italy, Paolo was Chief Conservator at the Kunstmuseum in Basel, Switzerland, the oldest public art collection in the world, from 1954 to 1984. A preeminent expert on Picasso, among other modern artists, Paolo continued to work in private practice following his retirement from the Kunstmuseum. He was the first member to be awarded the ICOM-CC Medal, in 1990. A Festschrift featuring many ICOM-CC members among its authors was dedicated to him in 1999, Hommage à Paolo Cadorin : l’amour de l’art (An Homage to Paolo Cadorin : the love of art), containing thirty-six articles on conservation, art history and museology and seven reminiscences.
Robert L. Feller 1919-2018
The art conservation world lost a towering figure with the passing on August 3, 2018, of Dr. Robert L. Feller in Pittsburgh, PA, at the age of 98. Dr. Feller, Bob to his friends, devoted his life to providing the scientific research essential to the advancement of conservation practice. He was a pioneer and the leading practitioner of the emerging discipline of art conservation science research. Bob found his way into conservation when he assumed the newly created position of National Gallery of Art Fellow at the Mellon Institute in Pittsburgh in 1950, and it was in that laboratory in Pittsburgh (and in its later incarnation as the Research Center on the Materials of the Artist and Conservator) where he spent his entire career until his retirement in 1988. His work changed the practice of conservation, leading to the widespread adoption of stable polymers such as Acryloid/Paraloid B-72 and of ISO Blue Wool standards which are now used as dosimeters for light exposure and elucidating
the risks to material damage from light exposure, or when circumstances dictate, during conservation light bleaching. His writings have become definitive reference works on artists' pigments, picture varnishes, color and fading, and accelerated aging. The clarity of his writing reflects his commitment to teach what he had learned to conservators and other researchers. His most enduring legacy may simply be the example that he set, showing the world how one can understand past changes in materials and can then reasonably forecast future changes through thoughtful, rigorous scientific research. Bob also understood the importance of translating that understanding into knowledge and tools that conservators could use. Caroline Keck always said Bob Feller was the scientist who most respected and truly collaborated with practicing conservators to find the best materials and approaches.
Beyond his scientific contributions, Bob was also a leader in the establishment of conservation as a profession. He was President of the International Institute for Conservation (IIC)-American Group and was a founding board member when that group became the American Institute for Conservation (AIC). He served as Chair of the International Council of Museums - Conservation Committee, and President of the National Conservation Advisory Council in the USA. For his contributions to the field, Bob was awarded honorary membership in AIC and their University Products Award. He was also granted the AIC Lifetime Achievement Award, which was named in his honor for all subsequent recipients. The IIC conferred on Bob honorary fellowship and presented him with the Forbes Prize. Bob was also honored as a recipient of the Pittsburgh Award from the American Chemical Society in recognition of his service to chemistry and humanity.
The profession of conservation has lost a great scientist, teacher, and leader, but we have also lost a genuinely great man. All who knew Bob Feller will testify to his warmth and his humor, his humility and his old-fashioned class. And perhaps his defining characteristic, in his professional and personal relations, was his heartfelt respect for others. His greatness as a teacher, as a leader, and as a person was born from his dealing with people as equals; people who he sought to help and teach, and from whom he could also learn through their own wisdom and experiences. It is the loss of a man having these qualities, more than simply his scientific abilities, that will be felt most deeply.
Contributed by Paul M. Whitmore (Lab head, Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, Yale University), with consultation from Joyce Hill Stoner (Edward F. and Elizabeth Goodman Rosenberg Professor of Material Culture, University of Delaware) and the FAIC Oral History File housed at the Winterthur Museum, Library, and Archives.
(This announcement will also appear in News in Conservation, Issue 68, October 2018)
After the founding of ICOM-CC in 1967, Dr Feller served as the Chair of ICOM-CC for three terms: 1969-1972, 1972-1975, and 1975-1978 and as a Directory Board Ordinary Member from 1978-1981. He was a two-term Coordinator for the early Working Group on Protective Coatings, Traditional and Modern (formerly the Varnishes Working Group and later the Coatings Working Group, and then the Resins Working Group, which was then incorporated into the Scientific Research Working Group in 2002).
Puccio Speroni 1939-2019
After a long period of illness, conservator and former head of Painting Conservation at the National Museum of Denmark, Puccio Speroni, died at almost 80. Puccio came to the world in Impruneta, a town situated between the rolling hills south of Florence. He was trained as a scenographer from the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze, but as scenography appeared to be breadless in those days, Puccio Speroni got employed in the conservation workshop at the Uffizi Museum already in 1964. The devastating flooding of the Arno River in 1966 became decisive for his further work. Puccio Speroni was hired at Limonaia di Boboli (the Greenhouse in the Boboli Park behind Palazzo Pitti) in 1968 and led the rescue work for the many works of art that had been damaged by the water and mud. Young volunteers who traveled to Florence from around the world to help after the disaster report that they would be put to work in Limonaia di Boboli, where Puccio Speroni instructed the newcomers in the necessary first aid for the works of art.
From 1969 to 1976 Puccio Speroni worked at various conservation workshops at Fortezza da Basso, which cares for the many works of art that Tuscany is rich in. Chief conservator Steen Bjarnhof, Statens Museum for Kunst, Denmark, participated with several colleagues from the Nordic countries in the rescue work in Florence, and in 1977 he invited Puccio Speroni to work for a 6-month period at the Danish Art Museum. Following this he in 1978 moved to the Danish National Museum's workshops in Brede, where he worked until 2000 and longest as head of the painting conservation. In addition to conservation and restoration at the museum, Puccio was actively engaged in developing new conservation equipment and methods, participated in teaching at international summer school programs on recent lining techniques and published the results widely.
Besides his work at the National Museum, Puccio Speroni was also active within the International ICOM Committee for Conservation, where he sat on the board from 1993-1999, the last three years as vice president. He was part of organizing the first Eastern European ICOM-CC conference in Dresden in 1990 immediately after the fall of the Iron Curtain. In 2002, Puccio Speroni received the ICOM-CC's medal of merit as recognition of his important work in the organisation and for his career as a conservator.
After his retirement, Puccio Speroni resumed painting, and performed several works with compositions and portraits. In 2010, a retrospective exhibition of his works was held at the Italian Cultural Institute in Hellerup, Denmark. At the exhibition opening, one could meet a large and varied crowd of Puccio's friends and acquaintances, and precisely the social and the festive gatherings were well-known ingredients throughout Puccio's life in Denmark. Countless are the dinner parties and carnivals, which he and his wife Kirsten Trampedach, a recently retired wall-paintings conservator from the National Museum, have held in their beautiful and extremely welcoming home in Copenhagen. This was among friends called ‘Pensione Speroni’, and many are the local and international guests who have benefited from the hospitality and the daunting Italian cuisine that was shared in abundance, something that will stand as a strong and beautiful memory of a now dearly missed Tuscan colleague and friend.
- Mikkel Scharff & Jørgen Wadum
Sharon Cather 1947-2019
ICOM-CC is saddened by the passing of Sharon Cather on 6th June 2019 after a long illness.
Sharon will be remembered for her formidable intelligence and tireless dedication to improving standards and practice of wall painting conservation. A visionary thinker, she set out to change the field by elevating the status of conservators and placing them in pivotal and recognized roles in the cultural heritage decision-making hierarchy. She was an early advocate for incorporating environmental investigation and research into the causes and mechanisms of deterioration into the conservation curriculum and placing preventive conservation alongside treatment in the overall conservation process. She championed innovative scientific methods and an interdisciplinary approach to conservation which attracted students from around the world from the fields of art history, architecture, archaeology and the sciences to study wall painting conservation at the Courtauld. Though never one to shy away from a difficult challenge, she also knew when to exercise restraint, her mantra to, “do as much as necessary but as little as possible”, is one that many conservators today guide their practice by. Most importantly, she was a respected voice in the field who challenged the status quo and questioned existing practice in an effort to redirect the attention toward pressing issues, the titles of a few of her publications demonstrate this, ‘Choices and judgement: the professional conservator at the interface’, ‘The dilemma of conservation education’, ‘Costing graphic documentation: how much money and whose time?’ and ‘Complexity and communication: principles of in-situ conservation’.
An art historian by training, Sharon studied at the University of California, Santa Barbara and Princeton University. She was a Rome Prize fellow at the American Academy in Rome (1981–82) where she worked on an exhibition of Gianlorenzo Bernini drawings. She later taught at Cambridge University before joining forces with Professor David Park in 1985 to found the Courtauld Institute of Art Conservation of Wall Painting Department. Sharon was the Shelby White and Leon Levy Professor of Conservation Studies at the Courtauld Institute of Art upon her retirement in 2018. During her 32 years at the Courtauld Institute of Art, Sharon supervised fifty-eight MA dissertations as well as numerous PhD students. Her passion for protecting wall paintings was infectious and through her teaching she influenced, inspired and mentored a generation of conservators.
Her reach and impact in the field of wall painting conservation extended well beyond the UK; she directed major conservation and research projects in Bhutan, China, Cyprus, Georgia, India, Jordan, Malta and Spain. Sharon was also actively involved in teaching programmes in China, Georgia, Malta, Israel, Qatar and India, playing a central role in the founding and implementation of the Leon Levy Foundation Centre for Conservation Studies at Nagaur in Rajasthan and the MA-level teaching in conservation undertaken at the Mogao Grottoes in collaboration with the Dunhuang Academy, Lanzhou University and the Getty Conservation Institute.
Sharon advised and participated in international research projects, authored numerous publications and organized conferences. She served on the editorial board of Zeitschrift für Kunsttechnologie und Konservierung; was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries since 1993; a Fellow of IIC since 1995 including serving as Vice President (2010-2014) and as Chair of the Technical Committee for both the 2010 IIC Istanbul Congress and the 2012 Vienna Congress; and, was a guest scholar at the Getty Conservation Institute in 2000–01.
In 2014, Sharon was awarded The People’s Republic of China Friendship Award, China’s highest award for foreign experts who have made outstanding contributions to China’s economic and social progress. In 2017, Sharon was awarded the Plowden Medal from the Royal Warrant Holders Association which cited “her commitment and leadership in research, innovation and education in wall painting conservation” towards “a more holistic, methodical and scientific approach to conserving wall painting across the world—whether in an English cathedral or an Indian palace”.
Though perpetually overworked Sharon always made time for her colleagues and students dispensing advice, guidance and a bit of humor—often late into the night during smoke-filled, brainstorming strategy sessions. Those of us lucky enough to have crossed paths with Sharon will remember her revolutionary spirit and uncompromising ethical stance but also her endless generosity and unwavering support. She will be greatly missed.
A conference to celebrate Sharon’s life and achievements will be held in the UK in the Spring of 2020; for further information please contact David Park at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Lori Wong and Charlotte Martin de Fonjaudran