Beloit College Magazine

Spring 2014 (March 18, 2014 at 6:00 am)

The Restorers

March 14, 2014 at 1:31 pm

A magazine built around the theme of restoration would be incomplete without celebrating the careers of Beloiters whose lives are devoted to restoring things that matter.

BARRY BAUMAN’69

Barry Bauman'69 closeup
Photo by Peter Wynn-Thompson

By Hilary Dickinson

 Throughout a nearly 50-year career in art conservation, Barry Bauman has conserved paintings by Rembrandt, Renoir, Picasso, and more.

“Usually if you name the artist, I’ve probably worked on it,” he says.

Still, the notoriety of the artist or the work is not what gives Bauman pride. To him, what’s most important is to have a painting look its best.

“Conservators are invisible; no one knows who did the restoration work. And that’s the way it should be,” Bauman says. “The goal is to have the artist look as good as he or she can, and to participate in that goal has always been my reward.”

A native of Syracuse, N.Y., Bauman came to Beloit for the Beloit Plan and intercollegiate basketball. He majored in geography because Beloit didn’t have an art history degree at the time, and he studied abroad at the University of Copenhagen, calling it a wonderful addition to his Beloit education.

Following his seminar abroad, he embarked on an art history tour, traveling solo throughout Europe for the next three months. He calls Florence, Madrid, Rome, and Venice the highlights of the trip.

Bauman went on to earn his master’s degree in art history with a specialization in Dutch Baroque painting from the University of Chicago and subsequently negotiated an apprenticeship with the conservator at the Art Institute of Chicago.

“To see three Monets lined up in the conservation lab is an ineffable experience,” he says when asked about his time at the Art Institute.

It was also at the Art Institute where he conserved one of his favorite works: Still Life With Game, Fruits, and Vegetables, a 7-by-10-foot painting by Frans Snyders from 1614.

Bauman, who counts Johannes Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Maxfield Parrish among his favorite artists, stayed at the Art Institute for 11 years, leaving as the associate conservator of paintings.

He went on to found the Chicago Conservation Center in 1983 as a resource facility for the conservation of paintings, works of art on paper, objects, frames, murals, and textiles. Over the next 20 years, the Center grew to become the largest private facility of its kind in the United States.

Feeling as though the business was running him instead of the other way around, Bauman sold it to an employee and in 2004 established Barry Bauman Conservation, the first national conservation laboratory dedicated to offering complimentary conservation services to museums and non-profits.

In the last decade, he’s conserved approximately 1,400 paintings for more than 300 institutions, including the Wisconsin Historical Society, the Indiana State Museum, the Phoenix Art Museum, and Beloit College, to name a few.

As this magazine went to press, he was working on restoring oil paintings of past Beloit College presidents Edward Dwight Eaton and Irving Maurer from the college’s collection of portraits.

He works out of his River Forest, Ill., home, conserving and then documenting paintings before, during, and after treatment on his website baumanconservation.com.

According to Bauman, the process of art conservation falls into three categories: the visual repairs (removing discolored varnish, dirt and grime, and all areas of former restoration work), the structural work (repairing tears, stabilizing lifting or cracking paint, reinforcing aged canvases, and re-stretching procedures), and the final effect of the painting (retouching areas of former loss and final varnishing).

In addition to his conservation work, Bauman enjoys writing case studies on paintings that involve significant discoveries.

One example is the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum’s forged portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln. The painting was insured for $400,000 and had hung in the governor’s mansion in Springfield, Ill., for 32 years. During Bauman’s treatment, he discovered that the signature, the 1864 date, and the brooch of Abraham Lincoln worn by the sitter were later additions. These and other factors were detailed in a 2012 New York Times front-page story titled “Mrs. Lincoln, I Presume?

Conservators frequently discover forged artwork, according to Bauman, but the opposite also occurs. 

“I’ve proved paintings were original that were thought not to be,” he says, citing a 1776 painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds, titled Boy with a Drawing in his Hand that he treated for the Flint Institute of Arts. 

While Bauman says he’s been lucky in his career for the discoveries he’s made and for the attention they’ve received, his attitude toward conservation has always been the same.

 “My job has never been work. It’s always been a reward.”

Barry Bauman'69
Barry Bauman is happy to work behind the scenes, helping
the artwork he restores to look the best that it possibly can.
In his Illinois studio, he is surrounded by two paintings he
recently conserved:
Hendrik Liberti (circa 1630) by Sir
Anthony van Dyck and
Crucifixion (1864) by Johann Schmitt.
Photo by Peter Wynn-Thompson.

Hilary Dickinson is a communications and media specialist for Beloit College.


GAIL CASKEY WINKLER’64

Gail Winkler close-up
Photo by Brad Larrison

By Tenaya Darlington’94

“All my clients are dead,” Gail Caskey Winkler says wryly as she passes her hand over a black-and-white photo of a family sipping tea around a table.

This 1892 image is one of the clues Winkler used to recreate the dining room that once belonged to the Dousman family of Villa Louis, a 19th century estate and museum in Prairie du Chien, Wis. It is the property of the Wisconsin Historical Society, a National Historic Landmark, and one of her first projects. It remains one of her favorites.

“I like to think that if the Dousmans re-entered their house today, they’d find it unchanged,” she says as she pores over a project binder, pausing to admire a sample of original wallpaper. Winkler considers Villa Louis one of her most exacting restorations, thanks to the photographs and fabrics the site director and curator collected from later generations of the family.

Winkler’s binder not only tells the story of the step-by-step restoration of the property, but also offers a glimpse into her own fascinating life. Since she graduated from Beloit College, following in the footsteps of her alumni parents, Winkler has made a name for herself as an expert in recreating historic interiors. After studying literature at Beloit, she pursued a Ph.D. in the history of design at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and went on to serve as a lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania’s graduate program in historic preservation from 1986 to 2011.

In 2000, she was elected a fellow of the American Society of Interior Designers and awarded a medal for her contributions to the profession.

For more than 30 years, Winkler and her husband, Roger Moss, have been partners in LCA Associates, headquartered in Philadelphia. The partnership has created historic furnishing plans for high-profile clients—such as the House and Senate chambers of the United States—and recreated historic interiors for the Pabst Mansion (Milwaukee, Wis.), the Rutherford B. Hayes home (Fremont, Ohio), and the Lincoln Cottage (Washington, D.C.), where Abraham Lincoln developed the Emancipation Proclamation.

“When the National Trust set out to restore [the Lincoln Cottage] for the public, we got called,” Winkler says. No original furniture survived, so Winkler began the P.D. James-like task of digging up evidence. In the archives, she discovered an invoice of Mrs. Lincoln’s purchases that specified particular window shades, wallpapers, and an unusual floor covering. “Mrs. Lincoln had ordered cocoa matting,” Winkler remembers. “The only source we could find for cocoa matting was a cemetery supplier!”

Much of Winkler’s work could be described as forensic science. She trolls 19th century newspapers, pores over photos with a magnifying glass, and works with paint microscopists and architects to conduct physical investigations. Archaeological digs at some sites have yielded important clues; a china shard or a broken oil lamp can help recreate a room.

“I love the process of discovery,” Winkler says. From her Villa Louis binder, she withdraws a new swatch of red velveteen and holds it up to a photo of a hall sofa; though the image is grainy, the match is unmistakable. “Scalamandre reproduced this for me,” she says, noting that the same design house produced textiles for the White House.

Winkler’s authentic recreation of period interiors depends on manufacturers, wallpaper and carpet stylists, as well drapery workrooms, carpet installers, and wallpaper hangers familiar with period techniques. “I rely on a team of specialists around the country,” she explains. Once she completes a historic furnishings plan, she coordinates the implementation, resurrecting period rooms out of fragmentary evidence.

With multiple books to her name, including her first, Victorian Interior Decoration (1985), and her most recent, Capricious Fancy (2012), Winkler can summon dates and details from her projects without hesitation and believes that her visual memory has sharpened over time.

Last year, she was watching a film when she spotted a familiar swath of carpet on screen. “It was a little geometric design based on a couple of 1909 photos of the Virginia Senate Chamber,” she recalls. “I had recreated the design for the restoration of the House and Senate chambers.” The film was Lincoln, and the scene—depicting the U.S. House of Representatives debating the 13th Amendment—was shot in the Virginia House of Delegates, one of six public rooms that Winkler restored.

“I may forget a name or face,” she says, smiling, “but I never forget a pattern.”

Gail Winkler main
Former lit major Gail Caskey Winkler is a special kind of 
sleuth, a studied detective who takes her clues from photos,
letters, and archives to recreate some of America's most
treasured historic interiors. Photo by Brad Larrison.

Tenaya Darlington’94 teaches creative writing at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Her book, The Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese: A Guide to Wedges, Recipes, and Pairings, is featured on page 8 of this magazine.


JANINE GESKE’71


Janine Geske close-up
Photo by Rebecca Carpenter/Brown Street Studios

By Lynn Vollbrecht’06

Imagine suffering an unspeakably violent act at the hands of another person. Or enduring the murder of a loved one. Or burglary. Or rape. Now imagine that you could sit in a room across the table from the person who caused that trauma, that you had the chance to have a conversation with him or her, maybe decades after the fact: Would you take it?

These are the types of conversations that Janine Geske facilitates, as many as eight per year, through her work in conflict resolution and as director of Marquette University Law School’s Restorative Justice Initiative.

It’s a calling the former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice and recently retired Marquette University law professor never imagined when she was studying at Beloit College, planning on a career teaching French in elementary schools.

“I never thought I was going to be a lawyer; I never thought I was going to be a judge,” Geske says. “If I had laid out a plan, it would not have looked like this at all, but I love what I do.”

As a young lawyer—she graduated from Marquette’s law school in 1975—Geske considered juvenile law, given her background in elementary education, but found herself wanting to be more of a general practitioner in a small town. It was a tall order at a time when women composed a tiny percentage of the legal field, and she had trouble landing an interview. She wound up at Marquette’s Legal Aid Society, which provided legal services for people who could not afford them, a line of work that contained an element of civil mediation.

“It gave me a deeper appreciation of the importance of having an outlet for people, to have a means to deal with conflict other than on the streets,” she recalls.

This thread of mediation and alternative methods of conflict resolution stuck with her, through her years as a professor of law at Marquette, 12 years as a Milwaukee County circuit court judge, and five years on the Wisconsin Supreme Court in the 1990s. It was during her tenure on the Supreme Court that she first encountered the practice of restorative justice, while visiting a prison.

“When I first learned about it, I thought it was crazy,” she says. “I thought, ‘What victim is going to ever want to talk to an offender?’ I thought it was nuts.”

But then she saw the transformations taking place—family members hugging their brother’s murderer, or reaching out to the drunk driver that ended their daughter’s life.

The program works like this: the victim of a violent offense will want to meet with their offender, and the Restorative Justice Initiative will find out if the offender is willing to meet with the victim or survivor. If both parties are willing, it is the start of a process that can take anywhere from six months to two years, and culminates in a face-to-face conversation between the two, facilitated by someone like Geske. What it doesn’t always result in is forgiveness, but that is not the point, Geske explains. The process is victim-directed, and Geske and her colleagues spend a lot of time talking with participants about what they hope to get out of the conversation, which usually lasts for several hours.

“For some, it’s a forgiveness journey,” she says, “but forgiveness is not necessarily part of restorative justice. Victims’ groups often call forgiveness ‘the F-word.’”

What restorative justice is meant to do is repair harm, by looking at the intersections of victim, offender, and the community, and addressing the way in which each of those entities are impacted by an event like a violent crime, and what needs to happen on an emotional, mental, and spiritual level—beyond the letter of the law, like financial restitution or a prison sentence served—for reparations to be made.

“At the core of this, it’s really about humans listening to each other, and trying to understand each other’s perspectives. It’s really that simple,” Geske says.

It’s a concept that can be applied on an international stage, to conflict writ large—issues like ethnic cleansing, border conflicts, and clergy sex abuse. These are all issues Geske has tackled over the years, working with churches in Ireland, for example, to help set up dialogues between churches and the victims of clergy sex abuse. She speaks about the practice of restorative justice at conferences and universities across the country and around the world.

Geske said she can tell a particular conversation was successful when both parties—the victim and offender—come away from the conversation changed, and glad they went through the process.

“What we’re shifting for [the offender] is, ‘I violated a law, I got caught, and now I’m being punished,’ she says. “And it shifts to ‘I’ve hurt this human being, whose life has been irreparably harmed.’ That’s a real human shift, and that’s where I think you have restoration.”

Geske main
Janine Geske's starfish collection reminds her of a well-
known parable about the futility of trying to save thousands
of starfish washed up on a beach: Just tossing a few back to
sea makes a difference, especially to the creature in
question. Likewise, one violent crime at a time, she works to
help repair damage between victims and offenders.
Photo by
Rebecca Carpenter/Brown Street Studios.

Lynn Vollbrecht’06 is the associate editor of Beloit College Magazine.

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