Conservation of a Rare Painting by Constantin Westchiloff

2020-07-31T22:53:05-04:00May 20th, 2020|Announcements, Conservation|

The Russian History Museum is proud to announce the completion of the conservation treatment of a work in its collection, “Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane,” by the Russian-American artist Constantin Alexandrovich Westchiloff (b. St. Petersburg 1878 – d. New York 1945).

Westchiloff studied under Ilya Repin at the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg from 1898. His painting, “Ivan the Terrible After the Triumph of Kazan” won an academy award in 1904. He studied at the Royal Academy in London in 1905-06 and exhibited “Breakthrough of the Cruiser Askold in 1904 in the Yellow Sea,” which depicted a critical moment in the Russo-Japanese War. Westchiloff fled the Soviet Union in 1922, emigrating first to Italy, then France, and finally to New York, where he became known primarily for his seascapes and landscapes.

“Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane” occupies a very rare position in Westchiloff’s work, as it is a religious theme, which is unusual for the artist. The painting had significant structural and condition issues which prevented its display. The conservation of the painting was made possible by the NYSCA/GHHN Conservation Treatment Grant Program administered by Greater Hudson Heritage Network with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts.

Before conservation treatment.After conservation treatment.

The project was carried out by Westlake Conservators, LTD of Skaneateles, NY, by the conservators Margaret Sutton and Nathan Sutton. The painting responded well to treatment, and tears in the work were stabilized and distortions in the canvas were restored to plane.  Layers of discolored varnish were removed, and a new varnish coat was applied to restore original tones of painting.

The work was completed in time to be displayed in our current exhibition, “Revealing the Divine: Treasures of Russian Sacred Art,” in which it represents an important and unique moment in the work of the artist Westchiloff, as one of the few sacred subjects by this secular painter. The painting will be exhibited once the Russian History Museum reopens to the public. It will serve as an example of a non-devotional religious art and contrasted with works in the exhibition which are devotional in nature.

The Museum is deeply grateful to the Greater Hudson Heritage Network and the New York State Council on the Arts for awarding the grant that made it possible to bring back to life this rare example of Constantin Westchiloff’s work.