The Catholic University of America

April 24, 2014

Noland Painting Finds Its Home

  Welcoming Pool to the Mullen Library are (L to R) Arthur Page, restoration expert; junior Elizabeth Denholm; senior Ashley Wilson; Nora Heimann, art department chair; and L.R. Poos, dean of arts and sciences.

“We are here to celebrate the return to Catholic University of Pool by Kenneth Noland,” said L.R. Poos, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, who was the lead speaker at an April 22 reception at the John K. Mullen of Denver Memorial Library.

The 6-foot by 6-foot magna paint on canvas painting was recently installed on the first floor of the library. The painting “has not had a quiet life. The ‘pool’ has been choppy, it’s had a lot of waves,” said Poos, explaining the painting was damaged years ago in a fire at Salve Regina Hall, home to the Department of Art, and subsequently underwent a poor-quality restoration, further damaging the work by one of the best-known contemporary American Color Field painters of his time.

Kenneth Noland (1925–2010), a master of color abstraction, taught at Catholic University from 1951 to 1960 and donated his 1959 work, Pool, to the University in 1961 to commemorate his time at CUA.

Poos called the painting “a significant piece of CUA legacy” and Noland “the most significant artist to be on our faculty.” He talked about the trade-offs in restoration of artwork. “Whether this is still the original Noland painting that was donated to the University is open to interpretation and we are very aware of that.”

Poos thanked those responsible for the long, intricate process of restoring an iconic piece of art including the late Jane Nebel Henson, who studied at CUA’s art department from 1956 to 1959 and again in the 1990s and was a student in two of Noland’s courses: Drawing and Composition and Advanced Creative Design. Her gift to the University helped fund the restoration. Henson, who was the widow of well-known puppeteer Jim Henson and a puppeteer herself, “was a long-time friend of the University and the art department and had a particular interest in the work of Kenneth Noland,” said Poos.

He also acknowledged Arthur Page of the Washington, D.C.-based Page Conservation, Inc., who led the restoration effort and was present at the reception, and the staff of the library, who worked to find the most appropriate location for such a large work of art.

Nora Heimann, chair of the art department and associate professor of art history, introduced senior art history major Ashley Wilson, who recently curated an art exhibit “Under the Influence: Reverberations of the Washington Color School” in the Salve Regina Gallery. Wilson said seeing the damaged Noland painting in the art department spurred her interest in writing her junior thesis on the Washington Color School, a movement that included Noland as one of its most significant artists.

The Washington Color School was a loosely affiliated group of artists working together in the 1950s and 1960s. “It was a major movement that came out of Washington, D.C., and became nationally recognized. It continues to be relevant and inspirational,” said Wilson.

Junior art history majors Elizabeth Denholm and Charles Lavallee, under the direction of art instructor Lara Yeager-Crasselt, researched Noland, his work, and his relationship to CUA in order to draft the wall label that accompanies the painting and explains the artist, the painting, and the technique to the public.

In part, the narrative label tells people, “In his early paintings, of which this is an iconic example, Noland often employed concentric geometric shapes. Here he uses squares within a square. This spare composition becomes dynamic through the use of vibrant color and subtly varied brushwork…

“Noland's meteoric rise in stature in the 1950s helped draw prominent artists and art critics to the region, and was significant in making Washington and Catholic University a center of avant-garde painting in the mid-20th century.”

In closing remarks, Heimann said the painting “is a reminder to our department of our historically important past, and an inspiration for an equally bright future.”




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