This fall season has been a wonderful time at Villa Finale…the reasons? We’ve had fifteen objects return from their long summer sojourns in conservators’ studios. Three Julian Onderdonk (1882-1922) oil paintings and twelve mantel clocks came back to roost in the past two months.
The paintings, thanks to a generous grant award from the Dallas-based Summerlee Foundation, were cleaned and stabilized. Through no fault of anyone, just age, they had issues such as actively flaking and lifting paint, discolored varnish, unsuitable or no backing, improperly executed retouching, losses or punctures and overall discoloration. Mark van Gelder of Art Conservation Services of Austin painstakingly handled all of those issues, cleaning inch by inch with cotton swabs, repainting where paint had flaked, tightening the canvas and stabilizing the frame. Van Gelder conserved on one small painting entitled Valley Near Williams Ranch – Twenty Miles West of Kerrville, which hangs in Villa Finale’s Dining Room, one medium-sized Texas bluebonnet painting and one very large painting entitled Pool on the Guadalupe River.
Here is where I will be perfectly honest with you, dear reader: previously I did not care for, in the least, Pool on the Guadalupe River. It was a muddy, dark painting with no depth whatsoever and something or someone had punctured the painting right in the center of the pool. But when I went to van Gelder’s studio to see the finished product, my jaw hit the floor. Here before me was a stunning deep river pool, greenish-gray, lined with limestone ledges and stands of fall trees in the background. It was wonderful! I understood why Onderdonk painted this scene and why Walter Mathis acquired it. It was a pleasure to behold.
So not only do your eyes get a treat at Villa Finale, your ears will too when you hear the chime of our many clocks. Their repair was another grant funded project, this time from an award from the National Trust’s Historic Sites Fund.
The clocks add a liveliness and warmth to the house that Mathis enjoyed – the sound and movement of the clocks also give energy and vitality to the current interpretation of the museum. It goes without saying that the clocks are also an important part of Villa Finale’s decorative arts collection and are inherently valuable. They date from the mid- to late 1800’s and are primarily French.
My colleague, Sylvia Gonzalez-Hohenshelt and I put together a little video about the clocks for your viewing pleasure: CLICK HERE TO VIEW VIDEO