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Gausta painting is on display at Luther

Posted: Tue, Jun 28, 2011 5:40 PM

A 126-year-old painting owned by Luther College is now back on display on campus after 10 months of restoration at the Midwest Art Conservation Center in Minneapolis.

"Young Mother" was painted in 1885 by Herbjorn Gausta.  However, experts had declared the oil painting "structurally unstable."  They suggested the canvas would soon deteriorate past the point when it could be restored.

During the 10-month restoration, the experts cleaned the canvas, removed a layer of yellowing varnish, retacked the canvas to a new stretcher and painted in spots where the original surface had cracked or chipped.  

"We can finally see the glowing colors and sparkling light that the artist had intended and we can appreciate Gausta's talent for evoking a mood with the simplest of subjects," said Luther assistant professor of art Kate Elliott, the curator of the Luther Fine Arts Collection.

Gausta was born in 1854 in Telemark, Norway.  He immigrated with his family to America in 1867.  Throughout the late 1800s, Gausta traveled between Norway and the Upper Midwest, painting portraits of prominent Norwegian-American individuals, religious works and genre scenes depicting life in the two regions.

"Young Mother" shows a young Norwegian mother quietly knitting while her young child naps in a traditional cupboard bed.

The restoration project is one of several paintings restored by the Luther College Fine Art Collection.

 "One of our ongoing projects in the collection is to clean and conserve paintings to ensure they will be around for a long time," said Elliott. "We generally have one painting a year restored at the conservation center."

The Fine Arts Collection, numbering more than 1,500 works, contains art dating from 500 B.C.E. to the present and focuses on art produced in the 20th century.