The Painting: Before Conservation Treatment
What was left of this damaged painting by the Kansas City native and Paris Salon award winning Artist, John Douglas Patrick, was brought into the studio by a client who had attended an auction for his work and thought she saw a figure under the layers of soot, grime and years of degradation.
The figural aspect of this painting was revealed, confirming the client’s initial draw to the previously hidden depiction of a mother and child. Patrick, the artist, was a classically trained figural painter who created many portraits in his time as well as outdoor 'en plein air’ paintings with the subject matter of fields, orchards and trees.
The American born John Douglas Patrick, was the son of Scottish immigrants who moved to a farm in Lenexa, Kansas, just outside of Kansas City, when Patrick was a young boy. As a child, Patrick already showed signs of a talented future in painting. He attended the St. Louis School of Art for 4 years until 1885 when he left for the reputable ‘Academie Julian’ in Paris, France. While attending classes, his paintings drew the admiration of his professors and landed him an invitation the the Paris Salon. In 1889, Patrick gained international recognition as one of the first Americans to be awarded a metal by the Paris Salon. The bronze medal piece by Patrick, ‘Brutality’, depicts an overpowering male abusing a horse that he is trying to break into doing his bidding; the message being that animals deserve dignity and respect too. That same year, Patrick returned home to the United States to deal with family matters and maintained his esteemed reputation through teaching at a school he founded in St. Louis and showing in the Kansas exhibition at the 1894 World’s Fair.
Patrick returned to Kansas City in 1907 to volunteer his services as an educator for the opening of “The Fine Arts Institute”, which was renamed “The Kansas City Art Institute” and still exists today. His reputation preceded him and Patrick aided greatly in attracting prospective students to the University until he retired in 1936.
The Art Today
Shortly after retirement, in 1937, John Douglas Patrick passed away at age 74. The life-long accumulation of Patrick’s artwork which he continued creating until his death, went to his family. The artwork was poorly stored in a one room apartment and then moved to a basement where it was exposed to moisture, soot and moldy conditions. As a result, Van Witt Fine Art Conservation has had the pleasure of performing conservation treatments on more than a few John Douglas Patrick paintings.