About Judith Watkins Tartt

JUDITH WATKINS TARTT PAINTING CONSERVATOR AIC PA FOUNDER AND CEO OF ART-CARE

Judith Watkins Tartt has been a private conservator of paintings practicing in Washington, DC since 1975. After receiving a BA in Art History at The George Washington University Ms. Tartt began a seven-year work/study apprentice program with H. Stewart Treviranus. Mr. Treviranus painting conservator, AIC Fellow, IIC Fellow received his training from Sheldon Keck NYU and in Washington DC under Russell Quant at the Corcoron Gallery of Art.

Ms. Tartt has been awarded contracts from The GSA, US Department of State Art and Embassy Program and the US Treasury. She was contract conservator for the Hong Kong Museum in 1984- l985 and again in 1992 -1993 she was Contract Conservator in Asia for Sotheby’s l992- l995. In 2004 Judith Watkins Tartt was one of two painting conservators to be awarded the contract to restore the Turkish Embassy, Washington, DC. She has been the Painting Conservator for the Kreeger Museum, Washington, DC since l980. She has collaborated on projects with several Washington D.C. conservators.

Ms. Tartt is the Director and Founder of ART-CARE.

MAJOR COLLETIONS AND CLIENTS Present- l975

National Sporting Library 19th century Sporting Paintings Middleburg, Virginia

The Kreeger Museum Conservator in charge of Paintings Washington, D.C.

The George Washington University Permanent Collection Contract Conservator

American University, Washington, DC Watkins Gallery and Katzen Art Center Conservator of Paintings

Charles Cowles Gallery, New York, New York Conservator of Paintings Washington Color School

U.S. House of Representatives Seth Eastman Painting Collection Contract Conservator

Live Oak Farm, Ocala, Florida 19th English Sporting Paintings Conservator of Paintings

Mandarin Hotel, Hong Kong, China Mural Conservation 1992 June - September

U.S. Department of State Art in Embassy Program Contract Conservator

U.S. Department of Treasury Permanent Collection Contract Conservator

General Services Administration Art-in-Architecture Program Contract Conservator

National Air and Space Museum Permanent Collection Contract Conservator

ARTISTS TREATED Allasandro Allori, Gilbert Stuart, Rembrandt Peale, John Wollaston, George Chinnery, Auguste Borget, John Wootton, James Seymour, George Stubbs, Ben Marshall, J.F. Herring, J.N. Sartorius, Sir Alvin Fisher, Sir Alfred Munning, John Emms, Josef Albers, Max Beckman, George Braque, Paul cezanne, Charles Daubigny, Gene Davis, Narcisse Diaz, Thomas Downing, James Ensor, Vincent Van Gogh, Charles Hinsman, Joan Miro,Claude Monet, Aldolphe Monticelli, Edvard Munch, David ParKs, Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, James Rosenquist, Nicholas de Stael, Yves Tanguy, Felix Ziem

PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS American Institute of Conservation (AIC) (PA) Washington Conservation Guild Arttable

As a painting conservator in private practice, I assess the condition, determine and perform correct treatment based on methods and techniques approved by our national association, The American Institute for Conservation of Historical and Artistic Artifacts (AIC). I have been in private practice for 35 years. 

 

Judith Watkins Tartt '67: An Insistence upon Seeing

I was always very aware of being in the shadow of the Cathedral. Our home was near the Close, and I played on a big rope swing over the ravine in the Olmsted Woods, and hide and seek in the Cathedral with Dean Sayre's daughter. As you get older, you see your life more clearly. I now know that at NCS we were privileged to be in a special place, a place of beauty. It instilled a reverence for beauty in us.

Judith Watkins Tartt has been a private conservator of painting, practicing in Washington, DC since 1975. She attended Beauvoir School and NCS through the 5th grade, and would have been a member of the NCS Class of 1967. (Her sister, Mary Watkins Bernhardt, graduated from NCS in 1965.) Judith still values her NCS experience and was delighted to reconnect with former classmates during last year's Reunion. We felt her story was one to share in this issue devoted to the visual arts.

I was born far-sighted, then became cross-eyed. I wore bifocals when I was 3, and had an eye operation at age 8. As a consequence, from a very early age I was obsessed with vision, and was aware that better and better vision was possible. I loved magnifying glasses and jewelers' loops. When I started to look at art, I was more interested in seeing how the artist created depth and made transitions than the subject matter of the painting. This interest ultimately led to my career in painting conservation.

At George Washington University, I studied art history and copied old master paintings. I became fascinated with the materials used during various periods in history, such as Byzantine gold leaf egg tempera, or oil-based pigments on fabric. When I graduated in 1973, through the recommendation of Lester Cook of the National Gallery of Art, I went to the Georgetown studio of painting conservator H. Stewart Treviranus. When his door swung open for the first time, I saw a room full of paintings, heard classical music playing, and knew it was exactly where I wanted to be.

At the beginning of my apprenticeship with Treviranus, I just observed. Then little by little he let me do things like taking paintings off stretchers, learning how to handle them, and filling in losses in paintings. After a year, I went to study conservation in Florence, Italy, and returned to clean and restore paintings in the studio. After five years, I went out on my own, and have been an independent conservator of paintings ever since.

Conservation is not about ego: conservators must defer completely to the artist's intent, and not embellish or "improve" the art in any way. The creative part of conservation is the choreography of treatment to preserve the artist's intent. Conservation is about solving problems. Our professional ethics dictate that anything we do to a work of art has to be reversible, so that if a new treatment is discovered in the future, our work can be reversed without doing harm to the painting. Another requirement is that there has to be accountability: all work has to be documented with written and photographic condition and treatment reports.

I've had many memorable jobs. Highlights include a contract in the 1980s to restore China Trade paintings by European artists at the Hong Kong Museum of Art. I returned to Hong Kong in 1994 to restore a mural of the Three Graces at the Mandarin Hotel. Their golden figures had been covered in brown paint; when it was removed, the owners believed good luck returned to their tourist trade.

In collaboration with another conservator, I was hired to restore the pictorial aspects of the Turkish Embassy in Washington, DC (now the Turkish Ambassador's residence) in 2004. In addition to painted ceilings, there were two huge paintings in architectural niches alongside the central staircase. These panels were so discolored that their color was invisible. In cleaning them, we discovered they were by Renaissance painter Alessandro Allori, signed and dated 1575. The scenes were of Aeneas and Anchises (depicting the Burning of Troy) and Narcissus. Such a discovery is a conservator's dream. A similar panel by the same artist is in the collection of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

NCS really made me aware that there is a level of "correctness" or standard, for a job well done. I am a perfectionist, and won't hand a painting over until it is right to my eye. The fear of falling short is a constant with me; my most difficult problem is knowing when to finish. This all may sound all too familiar to other NCS students!

In 2001 I helped my mother move from the house she'd lived in for more than 50 years. When I realized that even as a professional I didn't know how to value, protect, or display many old family objects, the idea for what is now Art-Care.com occurred to me.

Art-Care.com is an online resource that connects owners of art, antiques, and other objects with experienced, credentialed service providers such as conservators-restorers, appraisers, insurance companies, art shippers, specialized attorneys, archival framers, gilders, and others. Since I founded it in 2002, Art-Care. com has grown to now include some 350 accredited art service providers. Our mission is to support the stewardship, preservation, and protection of art and other material culture under private ownership. The site is an information resource that makes conservation resources more accessible to the public, and is supported by membership dues from the service providers who join it.

I still work full-time (and then some) as an independent conservator. I think NCS instilled many values that guide my work: accountability, careful documentation, and a belief that answers can be found if you really do your research. But NCS's ultimate legacy to me may be the extraordinary light in the Cathedral itself. I insisted on seeing; and seeing became my life's work.

"Judith Watkins Tartt '67: An Insistence upon Seeing." NCS MAGAZINE May 2013: 26-27