Discovering art that lies underneath

Richard Diebenkorn’s work, “Window,” is a beautiful piece of art on its own. But thanks to support from Bank of America, conservators at Stanford’s Cantor Arts Center were able to discover a hidden treasure within the painting itself.

Bank of America awarded an Art Conservation Project grant to the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University to restore the Bay Area artist’s original work. Additionally, to help explore a hidden “underpainting,” which was discovered last year, new infrared reflectography equipment was purchased. This grant provides a unique opportunity that merges technology and the arts to capture the true character of Silicon Valley and the Bay Area.

The hidden work was initially discovered by a Stanford Arts Fellow working at the Cantor Arts Center using a special infrared camera. She had noticed elements of a still life beneath the finished product — a pair of glasses and candelabra.

Curious to explore the painting further, the Osiris camera allowed the students in Stanford’s Art+Science Learning Lab to penetrate the thicker layers of paint and expose a third layer: a drawing of a female nude. Further research revealed a striking resemblance to work in Diebenkorn’s earlier sketchbooks.

Being able to preserve and explore art with technology speaks to the innovative environment characteristic of Silicon Valley.

Raquel González
Silicon Valley market president for Bank of America

This discovery exposes viewers to a deeper meaning in the work, capturing the artist’s evolution from various periods and movements in his career. The female nude sketch reflects his time as a key figure in the Bay Area figurative movement, early in his career. The candelabra and glasses hail from the following period as he dabbled in still lifes, and the depiction of the cityscape highlights his progression toward abstract expressionism.

The painting was also brought to Stanford Hospital in order to have an X-ray to determine what lay beneath the canvas. By combining X-rays and the infrared, conservators hope to obtain a better picture of what is below “Window.”

“Being able to preserve and explore art with technology speaks to the innovative environment characteristic of Silicon Valley,” said Raquel González, Silicon Valley market president, Bank of America.

The bank’s Art Conservation Project helps museums around the world conserve historically or culturally significant works of art that are in danger of deterioration. Since the program’s launch in 2010, Bank of America has provided grants to museums in 29 countries, supporting over 100 conservation projects.



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