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October 5, 2011

Contact: Karen Cardinal

Telephone 413/542-2551

Hi-res images available upon request   

The Mead Art Museum Completes Conservation of
Historic American Picture Frames

Thomas Cole frames restored
Amherst College students admire Thomas Cole's The Past and The Present reinstalled with
their restored original frames at the Mead Art Museum in September 2011.
Tom Middleton and Simeon Lagodich
Tom Middleton and Simeon Lagodich of Gill  & Lagodich examine one of the Mead's frames for treatment in August 2011.

AMHERST, Mass.-The Mead Art Museum at Amherst College today announced the completion of extensive restoration and conservation of the important Rococo-revival picture frames surrounding The Past and The Present (1838) by Thomas Cole, the so-called "Father of the Hudson River School." The paintings, which depict the rise and fall of a medieval society, count among Cole's most significant compositions of the late 1830s, when his artistic star reached its peak. Enhancing the historical importance of Cole's Past and Present are the paintings' original-and extraordinarily rare-Rococo-revival frames. Works of art in their own right, they were manufactured in New York and exemplify the style of frame that Cole chose for many of his major paintings. The Henry Luce Foundation of New York supported the project with a $16,000 grant to the museum last April.


Over the summer, experts at  Gill & Lagodich Fine Period Frames & Gilding Restoration of New York carefully cleaned the Mead's frames, removed evidence of previous unsuccessful repairs, replaced lost ornament with new decoration cast from molds, stabilized existing ornament and re-gilded the frames to match their original appearance. The frames emerged from treatment in exquisite form, and, reunited with Cole's memorable paintings, are on display once again in the museum's Fairchild Gallery.

Tom Middleton at work
Master gilder Tom Middleton of Gill & Lagodich applies gold leaf to one of the Mead's frames in August 2011.


"We couldn't be happier with the outcome of the conservation of the Cole frames," emphasized the Mead's Director and Chief Curator Elizabeth Barker. "Thanks to the generosity of the Luce Foundation and the expertise of Gill &Lagodich, visitors to the Mead can see these beloved landscapes in the same luminous settings that first captured the imaginations of their earliest viewers more than 150 years ago."


The 2011 project extends the Mead's commitment to improving the frames of many artworks in its collection. In 2008, the Smith College Museum of Art's frame conservation apprenticeship program created a historical-reproduction frame for Martin Johnson Heade's Red-tailed Comet (hummingbird) in the Andes(ca. 1883). In 2010, the Mead purchased new, historically appropriate frames for Bartholomeus van Bassen's Interior of a Church (1624), Peter Paul Rubens'Charity Enlightening the World (ca. 1627-28) and Childe Hassam's Flags on the Friar's Club (1918).


The Mead Art Museum houses the art collection of Amherst College, totaling more than 16,000 works. An accredited member of the American Association of Museums, the Mead participates in Museums10, a regional cultural collaboration. During the academic term, the museum is open Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to midnight and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. For more information, please visit the museum's website,, or call 413/542-2335.