Good Bull at The Forsyth Galleries

Good Bull at The Forsyth Galleries

Text by Lynn C. McDaniel, Communications Specialist for the University Art Department

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Photos by Heather Bennett, Collections Manager for the Forsyth Galleries

As mentioned in an earlier blog, conservation and care of the statues and memorials on campus is one of the jobs of the University Art Galleries Department.  Some time back, the Forsyth Galleries made long-term loans of two sculptures to the Large Animal Clinic.  Although the pieces were displayed inside the building, they were not kept in a climate-controlled environment.  Eventually, time and the elements took their toll, and moisture collected under the bases, causing corrosion.  Collections Manager Heather Bennett and Assistant Collections Manager Josh Harden recently brought the statues back to the Forsyth Galleries’ work area to clean them and ensure their preservation.

The sculptures, titled The Bellowing Bull and The Charging Bull, are sand-cast bronze.   Artist Isadore Jules Bonheur, known for his domestic cattle and bull works, first exhibited this matching pair of bulls at the 1865 Paris Salon.  The stunning bronzes feature a deep brown patina with prominent casting details that give the bulls a sense of realism and muscular motion.

The moisture that had collected under the base was causing the bronze to oxidize.  Josh used a toothbrush and ionized water to clean away the active corrosion.  Ionized water is water that has had its acid and alkaline content segregated.  After the first cleaning, the object will be cleaned again with baking soda to completely neutralize the active corrosion.

Once the cleaning is complete, the statues will be returned to the Large Animal Clinic for the continued enjoyment of those who work, study and visit that facility.

For more information about Isadore Jules Bonheur, please click here.  For more information about the Large Animal Hospital, please click here.

Additional Information:

1.)    The Victoria and Albert Museum:  The Artificial Patination of Bronze Sculptures:

2.)    Causes of Corrosion:


12 Days Countdown–12/7/2012.

Text by Lynn McDaniel

Museums house a wide variety of items, from fine art to biological specimens, or historical artifacts to objects with cultural importance. The Sam Houston Sanders Corps Center is home to a museum that houses thousands of Aggie artifacts and a library with over 3,000 military research volumes.  For day seven in the 12 Days Countdown, we recognize the seven former A&M students who are Medal of Honor Recipients. The Medal of Honor is the highest award that a member of the United States Armed Forces can receive and is awarded for valor against an enemy force.

The seven Texas A&M former students who have received the Congressional Medal of Honor are:
keathley1. Sergeant George D. Keathley ‘37–Keathley joined the Army in May of 1942 and was assigned to the 338th Infantry Regiment, 85th Infantry Division at Fort Shelby, Mississippi.  His unit went into action in Italy in April 1944.  On September 14, 1944 his company attacked to capture Monte Altuzzo and break through the Gothic Line.  He was killed in this action while leading two platoons to defeat a determined enemy.  His last words were, “Please write my wife a letter and tell her I love her and I did everything I could for her and my country.  So long.  Give ‘em hell for me, I’m done for.”
carswell2. Major Horace S. Carswell, Jr. ‘38–Carswell piloted a B-24 bomber in a one-plane strike against a Japanese convoy in the South China Sea on the night of 26 October 1944. Taking the enemy force of 12 ships escorted by at least 2 destroyers by surprise, he made 1 bombing run at 600 feet, scoring a near miss on 1 warship and escaping without drawing fire. He circled, and fully realizing that the convoy was thoroughly alerted and would meet his next attack with a barrage of antiaircraft fire, began a second low-level run which culminated in 2 direct hits on a large tanker. A hail of steel from Japanese guns, riddled the bomber, knocking out 2 engines, damaging a third, crippling the hydraulic system, puncturing 1 gasoline tank, ripping uncounted holes in the aircraft, and wounding the copilot; but by magnificent display of flying skill, Maj. Carswell controlled the plane’s plunge toward the sea and carefully forced it into a halting climb in the direction of the China shore. On reaching land, where it would have been possible to abandon the staggering bomber, one of the crew discovered that his parachute had been ripped by flak and rendered useless; the pilot, hoping to cross mountainous terrain and reach a base, continued onward until the third engine failed. He ordered the crew to bail out while he struggled to maintain altitude, and, refusing to save himself, chose to remain with his comrade and attempt a crash landing. He died when the airplane struck a mountainside and burned. With consummate gallantry and intrepidity, Maj. Carswell gave his life in a supreme effort to save all members of his crew. His sacrifice, far beyond that required of him, was in keeping with the traditional bravery of America’s war heroes.
whiteley3. Lieutenant Eli L. Whiteley ‘41–On Christmas night 1944, Whiteley’s company attacked Sigolsheim, a small village west of Colmar, France.  The attack was beaten back by the Germans, but the Americans attacked again the next day.  By this time Whiteley’s platoon was reduced to eight men.  He led the attack in house-to-house fighting and is credited with killing nine of the enemy and capturing twenty-three others.  He suffered wounds to the head, shoulder, arm and leg.  He was returned to the States in March 1945 and was hospitalized at Dibble Army Hospital in Menlo Park, CA.  He was discharged as a captain in May 1946 and returned to Texas A&M where he was a lecturer in freshman agronomy classes.  Following a short stay at A&M he resumed his graduate studies at N.C. State University, receiving his master’s degree in September 1949.  Returning to A&M he began a career in teaching and research.  He earned his Ph.D. in January 1959.  He retired in 1979 as a distinguished professor.
leonard4. Lieutenant Turney W. Leonard ’42–Lt. Turney W. Leonard, Class of 1942, was commanding a platoon of tank destroyers at Kommerscheidt, Germany, during a fierce three-day battle.  Leonard repeatedly put his life at risk trying to direct the fire of his tank destroyer, going on lone reconnaissance missions, taking out an enemy machine gun emplacement, and leading broken units whose officers had been killed. Leonard received a wound early in the battle, but stayed in the fight until a high-explosive shell hit him.  Leonard was last seen at a medical aid station, but the enemy later captured it.  Leonard was awarded for leadership and brave actions that held off enemy forces while destroying six enemy tanks.
harrell5. Sergeant William G. Harrell ‘43–Harrell landed on Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945.  On the night of March 2, Sgt. Harrell and PFC Andrew Carter were assigned to a narrow foxhole on a ridge, some twenty yards forward of the company command post.  About five o’clock the next morning, March 3, Carter saw a number of shadowy figures coming toward their position.  They shot several of the advancing enemy until Carter’s rifle jammed.  While Carter returned to the command post to obtain another weapon, the assault on Harrell continued.  An enemy grenade severed Harrell’s left hand and fractured his thigh.  Due to the severity of his wounds and thinking he was dying, Sgt. Harrell ordered his companion to retire to safety.  Carter left only to retrieve another rifle; during his absence Harrell used an enemy grenade to kill his attackers, but lost his right hand in the explosion.  By dawn, the enemy had withdrawn leaving twelve dead around the foxhole. In a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, President Harry S. Truman presented the Medal of Honor to Sgt. Harrell on October 5, 1945.  He was discharged in February 1946, and returned home to Mercedes.  In 1949, he moved to San Antonio where he was employed by the Veterans Administration, eventually becoming Chief of the Prosthetics Division.  He died on August 9, 1969 and is buried in the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.  Harrell was the seventh Texas Aggie to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
hughes6. Lieutenant Lloyd H. Hughes ’43–Second Lt. Lloyd H. Hughes was awarded the Medal of Honor for “conspicuous gallantry in action and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty” during the air raid of August 1, 1943, on the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania.  He was the pilot of a heavy bombardment aircraft flying in the last element of a formation.  As he approached the target area, through intense antiaircraft fire at a dangerously low altitude, his aircraft received several direct hits.  The plane was seriously damaged, with fuel streaming from both the bomb bay and the left wing.  Although he had the option to make a forced landing, Hughes proceeded to the target.  With the full knowledge of the possible consequences of flying into the blazing target area with an already leaking and burning aircraft, he proceed to drop his bomb load with precision.  Only then did he attempt to crash land. By then the fire had progressed so that his aircraft crashed and burned.  His heroic decision to continue the mission at the risk of his life contributed to the defeat of the enemy.  The posthumous medal was presented to his wife, Mrs. Hazel Dean Hughes, at Kelly Field, San Antonio, on April 18, 1944.  Hughes was buried in Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in April 1950.  A dormitory at Texas A&M University and a residence hall at Williams Air Force Base in Arizona were named in his honor.
fowler7. Lieutenant Thomas W. Fowler ’43–After a short assignment in the states, Lt. Fowler was shipped to North Africa in October 1943 and then to Italy in February 1944 as a replacement officer assigned to the 191st Tank Battalion that was fighting on the Anzio beachhead.  After joining the 191st, his first duty was as a liaison officer to a regiment of the 45th Infantry Division engaged in the effort to break out of the beachhead.  Advancing on foot, he came upon two completely disorganized infantry platoons held up in their advance by an enemy minefield.  Fowler immediately took command and reorganized the units, making a personal reconnaissance through the minefield, clearing a path as he went, by lifting the mines out of the ground with his hands.  After he went through the 75-yard belt of deadly explosives, he returned to the infantry and led them through the minefield, one squad at a time.  Then he led supporting tanks through the minefield.  As he moved forward, he came upon several dug-in enemy soldiers and, having surprised them, dragged them out of their foxhole and took them prisoner.  Twice, when he met resistance, he threw hand grenades into enemy dugouts killing the occupants.  Under intense enemy fire, he brought the tanks forward, and when one of the tanks was hit and set afire, he attempted to save the wounded crew.  Only when the enemy had almost overrun his position, did he withdraw a short distance where he rendered first aid to nine wounded infantrymen.  Ten days later while commanding a tank platoon he was killed in action.  Second Lieutenant Thomas W. Fowler ’43 was the second Texas Aggie awarded the Medal of Honor.

Most of the actual medals, as well as other memorabilia, are on display in the Sanders Corps of Cadets Center.  For more information about the Sanders Corps of Cadets Center and the memorials and artifacts there, please contact Lisa Kalmus, Curator.  Lisa has been a museum professional for 19 years.  She has experience and knowledge in museum education, collections management, and exhibit design, development, and implementation.  In addition, she holds two degrees in history; undergraduate from Trinity in San Antonio, and a Master’s degree from Texas A&M.


Works Cited

Object label information by Lisa Kalmus, Curator, Sanders Corps of Cadets Center.

Leatherwood, Art. “HUGHES, LLOYD HERBERT,” Handbook of Texas Online Website:  Published by the Texas State Historical Association.  Date accessed: December 7, 2012.

The Battalion Online.  Website:  Date published: March 29, 2012.  Date accessed: December 7, 2012.

Conservation and Care of Texas A&M’s Memorials and Statues

Text by Lynn C. McDaniel, Communications Specialist for the University Art Department

Photos by John Peters, Audio Visual Specialist, Texas A&M College of Architecture

One of the duties tasked to the University Art Department is the care, preservation  and cleaning of the majority of  statues and memorials on campus, at least once per year.  Friday, November 2nd, our department set out to care for the Bonfire Memorial.

The Bonfire Memorial is a tribute to the twelve students who lost their lives, as well as the 27 who were injured, on November 18, 1999 when the bonfire stack they were building collapsed.  The bonfire had been a tradition at Texas A&M since 1909, as a pep rally before each year’s football game against the University of Texas.  The collapse of the bonfire stack, and the ensuing deaths and injuries, were devastating events that marked the end of the bonfire tradition on campus.

Designed by Former Students at the San Antonio-based architectural firm Overland Partners, the Bonfire Memorial was dedicated November 18, 2004.  The memorial is constructed of gray Chinese granite and bronze, and, from conception to completion, took 4 years to build.  One year after its dedication, Overland Partners received an Award of Honor from the San Antonio Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Prior to any on-campus art conservation effort, UART sends out requests to students, asking for volunteers from student organizations.  Volunteers sign up for one-hour shifts starting at 9:00 am, and work until the cleaning is finished.  Some students receive extra credit or service credits, while others are simply proud to volunteer to help conserve and protect the memorial out of respect for those who lost their lives.

Students first wash the bronze panels, top to bottom, using a mild soap and water, then rinse and dry them thoroughly.  The original bronze was colored and protected using a technique called patination, which has been used by artists in all cultures for many centuries.  Patinas, the root of patination, form naturally on metal objects as a result of corrosion, but the art of patination has been developed both to give sculptures that “weathered” look and to protect the artwork from corrosion.  Our conservation efforts strive to safeguard the protective patina, thereby further shielding the artwork.  The original artists’ patina usually serves to protect an outdoor sculpture for an average of five to ten years, depending on exposure and climate, with little or no elemental damage.  With good conservation efforts however, damaged can be controlled for many more years.

Unfortunately, after 8 years of exposure to the Texas sun, wind, rain and the spray of the sprinkling system, three of the Bonfire portals, in particular, are showing excessive pitting and corrosion.   Student volunteers carefully applied wax to the bronze, spreading it thinly and making sure to get it into every crack and crevice, paying particular attention to pitted or damaged areas.  Once the wax dried, students used elbow-grease to buff the bronze to a smooth, protective shine.  The portals showing the worst damage received additional coats of wax for more protection.  The Chinese granite requires little more than to be swept and given a simple wash with water.

The University Art Department works diligently to ensure that the statues and memorials on the Texas A&M campus will be available for our students’ enjoyment, as well as to commemorate those to whom they  were dedicated, for many years to come.  No matter where you live, you probably have statues and memorials in your town, on your campus or in some public place nearby.  We invite you to stop, look and really appreciate those works of art, and to remember those who work to maintain their integrity.  We also invite you to come and visit the Bonfire Memorial at Texas A&M University, and to remember the 12 who lost their lives that terrible night:  Miranda Adams, Christopher Breen, Michael Ebanks, Jeremy Frampton, Jamie Hand, Christopher Lee Heard, Lucas Kimmel, Bryan McClain, Chad Powell, Jerry Self, Nathan Scott West and Tim Kerlee, Jr.

For more information, click the links below:

1.)    Bonfire Memorial Website:

2.)    Wall Street Journal Article:

3.)    Aggie Bonfire Memorial Design Winner:

4.)    The Victoria and Albert Museum:  The Artificial Patination of Bronze Sculptures:

5.)    Causes of Corrosion:

The Anatomy of a Cassatt

In May of this year (2012) we sent Mother in a Large Hat Holding her Nude Baby by Mary Cassatt to the conservator to be evaluated and have a small area cleaned.  While at the conservator, multispectral images were taken that allowed us to see beneath the layers of this painting for the first time.  Multispectral imaging, including infrared and ultra violet fluorescence (UVF), have been used by many museums and conservators to help us understand the process by which an artist created their work.  Under drawings (the original sketches), modifications to the art by the artist, as well as later conservation work become clear when using this technique.  With many thanks to Dennis Baltuskonis we bring you these images!  This post is a continuation of The History of a Cassatt which outlines how the painting came to reside in our gallery.

Mother in a Large Hat Holding her Nude Baby, Seen from the Back View by Mary Cassatt, circa 1909, oil on canvas

When allowed to peek beneath the layers with near and far infrared imaging, we can see that Mary Cassatt created a quick sketch of the mother and baby but left the background blank of sketching.  It is also apparent that she made modifications to the hands, neck, hat, and contour of the face during the painting process.  These are the places where the under drawing does not match up with the finished painting.  There is also evidence of a small area of restoration on the mother’s face when viewed with UVF.

Near infrared (700-1000nm) image of Mother in a Large Hat by Mary Cassatt. The dark outlines visible around the mother and baby are the under drawing created by the artist.

In the detail of the left hand with near infrared imaging, you can see that Mary Cassatt decided after sketching to have the fingers of her left hand tuck unto the crook of her arm.

Detail of neck, face, and hat.

On the detail comparison of the neck, face, and hat you can see where Cassatt decided to change the outline of the top part of the hat.  In the under sketch there is no large bow or ribbon that extends up above the crown of the hat.  Cassatt also changed the contour of the neck slightly after sketching.  The posterior line of the neck in the painting is moved slightly back from the original line in the sketch.  You can also see where she modified the tip of the nose slightly.

Face detail with arrows to points of interest.

The under drawing is also very apparent when viewing the “false color” infrared image, which are created by added color to the black and white infrared image to create more contrast and allow more details to become apparent to the naked eye.  The under drawing appears as dark lines outlining the mother and baby.  These pop quite well on the left (viewer’s perspective) edge of the hat, the mother’s arms, and baby.

False color infrared image.

The dark spots on the mother’s face in the UVF image are evidence of later restoration work.  These appear as dark spots in this imaging technique as new paint does not fluoresce in the same manner as the original paint.

UVF detail of the face. Note the dark spots on the cheek. These are evidence of previous restoration work.

I hope you enjoyed taking a peek underneath the layers of this painting.  Mother in a Large Hat Holding her Nude Baby, Seen from the Back View is currently on display at the Forsyth Center Galleries.  If you are in the area stop by for a visit!

Carefully cleaning a spot on the painting!