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Art Conservation: The Work of John Rogers
July 12, 2012

Left: Objects conservator, Helen Ingalls. Center: John Rogers' The Wounded Scout, a Friend in the Swamp and Taking the Oath and Drawing Rations. Right: Art historian, Ann Wagner. Click on image for larger view.

I've always wondered why one of the figures in this sculpture, The Wounded Scout, a Friend in the Swamp, by John Rogers has a missing hand. It almost appears to be intentional, given the nature of the artwork's theme. But after attending a joint presentation by Helen Ingalls, objects conservator, and Ann Wagner, art historian, I found out that the sculpture suffered this loss of limb before it was acquired by the museum.

Helen explained that the replacement for the missing hand was cast from a bronze version of the same sculpture at the New York Historical Society and will be reattached and in-painted with reversible materials. Ann provided a detailed history of the artist and these mass-produced "groups". As I discovered, John Rogers sold about 80,000 of these small plaster sculptures depicting scenes ranging from a family playing Checkers up at the Farm to scenes from popular literature like Shakespeare or Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Made and sold from the 1860s to well into the 20th century, these sculptural groups were intended for viewing in the home and cost around $15 (this translates to somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 to over $300 today).

Two of Rogers' sculptures, The Wounded Scout, a Friend in the Swamp and Taking the Oath and Drawing Rations are currently "on view" in the objects lab on the 3rd-floor mezzanine of the Lunder Conservation Center awaiting treatment. Stop by to take a closer look!

Be sure to save the date on your calendar for these upcoming Lunder programs:

Conservation of Our Collection: Abstract Drawings Thursday, July 12, 4 p.m. and again Thursday, September 20, 4 p.m. Tour the Abstract Drawings exhibition with paper conservator Kate Maynor and learn about the materials and methods used by the artists whose works are on display.

Conservation of Our Collection: African American Art Wednesday, August 15, 12:30-1 p.m. Tour the African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond exhibition with the museum's conservators.

Posted by Mary on July 12, 2012 in Conservation at American Art


Interesting article! I enjoy finding out about the history of these artists, and the details about the art itself. With so many people currently tracing their ancestry, many pieces of art are being found in attics and basements. Explanations of art history are very helpful. Thank you for this well written piece!

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