This summer the conservation interns have had the wonderful opportunity to work on a research project, cataloging and interpreting data on Alexander Phimister Proctor’s bronzes. Proctor’s grandson Sandy Church and the Chief Scientist at Bruker Elemental Dr. Bruce Kaiser have been collecting X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) data and researching bronze foundries for the last three years and have analyzed
over one hundred of Proctor’s bronzes throughout the United States and Canada. We have worked along with them to organize the vast amount of information and put together a catalog that should help to make some connections between similar bronzes and foundries. It is Sandy’s hope to put together a catalog of all the information about Proctor as a bronze sculpture artist. We aim to present our findings at the next American Institute for Conservation (AIC) annual conference.
Dr. Kaiser gave us a workshop on his XRF tracer earlier in the summer so that we would be well versed in how to read the data and to do analysis on our objects in the lab as well. XRF is a noninvasive, nondestructive analytical technique used to determine the elemental composition of an object. If you would like to read more on what an XRF tracer is, how it works, and where you can get one please follow this link.
With all the elemental data that has been collected we hope to be able to identify which foundry cast the bronze and when it was cast when there is no provenance information. We have been able to distinguish trends on how each foundry is different based on what elements are found in the patinas and what the composition of the copper alloy is. Sandy has been able to fill us in with anecdotal and other useful information for each bronze that has been examined. Sandy has been able to tell us why “Grandad” would change foundries or who commissioned Proctor to make a certain piece.
Stop by our very own Proctor Studio in the Whitney Western Art Museum to learn more about bronze casting and Proctor’s artistic practices.
This project is being conducted with help from Peter Hassrick, the museum’s Director Emeritus and Senior Scholar.