May 25, 2018

‘Spirit of the Doughboy’ is ‘Back Where it Belongs’ at Old Lyme’s Memorial Town Hall

Tim_G_&_plaque

Former Old Lyme First Selectman Timothy Griswold hangs the new plaque acknowledging the restored ‘Spirit of the Doughboy.’

A small group of local dignitaries, residents and Old Lyme Town Hall employees along with the professionals involved in the restoration of The Spirit of the Doughboy — a large pastel drawing by Albert Herter — gathered yesterday evening in the town hall lobby to celebrate the return of the restored drawing.

The iconic drawing has been hanging over the main stairway in the Memorial Town Hall since 1920, but was removed for safekeeping during the renovation of the Town Hall from 2008 to 2010.

Based upon a subsequent evaluation by Jennifer Lacker of J. London Appraisals, the drawing underwent conservation treatment by Sarah Dove (Fine Art Conservation) and was reframed by Mara Gillen Beckwith (Studio M Framing).

Back in situ: 'Spirit of the Doughboy.'

Back in situ: ‘Spirit of the Doughboy.’

Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts alumna Morgan Wilcox interns for both the conservator and the framer, and had also been involved in all stages of the restoration process.

Local contractor Michael Magee returned the drawing to its home above the stairway earlier this month.

Referring to the title of the drawing, First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder explained during the reception that soldiers were nicknamed ‘Doughboys’ during World War I.  The term GI was only introduced in the Second World War.

Reemsnyder commented on the great improvement in the quality of the painting subsequent to its restoration, noting, “how beautiful it came out.”  Dove, the conservator who had worked on restoring the drawing, pointed out that, in fact, the “bright colors had never faded,” but the double layer of glass over the artwork had been “infiltrated … with a lot of dirt,” which was obscuring their vibrancy.

Dove noted the drawing was originally done as a poster and had been repaired at some point.  It was so fragile that it had required “a huge sheet of machine-made paper stretched over linen and reinforced structurally,’ to support it.  Ultimately the restored drawing was covered with museum quality acrylic, making it significantly lighter.  When asked by one of the guests at the reception, the new weight of the work, the framer responded by recalling to laughter that it had taken four people to remove the painting, but only two to replace it.

Beckwith also noted that the task of reframing the drawing was a complex one and she had been forced to develop, “a huge checklist of how to approach it.”

The drawing was hung there when the building was first opened and is believed to have been a donation from W.E.S. Griswold.  The post-World War I Committee charged with creating a memorial to those who had given their lives during the war included former First Selectman Timothy Griswold’s grandfather.

In honor of that family connection, Reemsnyder invited former First Selectman Timothy Griswold to hang the new plaque acknowledging details of the restored drawing.

Artist Albert Herter, a contemporary of John Singer Sargent and James McNeil Whistler, is most known for his World War I “Liberty Bond” posters.

After thanking all those involved in the restoration and Griswold for his family’s donation of the drawing originally, Reemsnyder concluded the ceremony saying of the drawing, “I’m very happy to have it back where it belongs.”

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