AP NEWS

Lowell Art Project Worth the Wait

February 24, 2019
Specialists with Clark Fine Art Services of Boston carefully remove the painting from its perch.

LOWELL -- George Washington in his general’s uniform stands high up on a ridge, holding a black three-cornered hat in his right hand while resting his left arm on Blueskin, his gray horse.

Behind the future president, the horizon is filled with reddish light and dark clouds of smoke.

Viewers of this oil-on-canvas painting, “Washington at Dorchester Heights,” are supposed to see the details of a tremendous harbor scene in the lower left corner.

But at Lowell’s Pollard Memorial Library, the public has been shut out from these details for several years. The 1845 painting commemorating an American victory during the Revolutionary War has obviously aged plenty, darkening and fading, wearing and tearing over time.

A fire in the library decades ago also did a number on the painting, located high up in the grand stairwell.

In the future, however, this iconic Washington painting will be restored to its original magnificent glory.

That’s what library officials and members of the Pollard Memorial Library Foundation said last week, discussing the massive restoration project of the 9-foot by 6-foot painting by Lowell artist Samuel P. Howes -- who completed the painting before the Civil War.

There’s now an empty spot in the grand stairwell after workers recently removed the painting and placed it in plastic. The frame will also be restored.

The entire project costs about $45,000, said Rosemary Noon of the foundation board, a private nonprofit that raises money to support the library. No public money will be used for this effort, she added.

“It’s incumbent on us to preserve and protect the work in the city,” Noon said last week.

The foundation has eyed this restoration project for years, added Foundation Chair Donna Richards.

This effort maintains a library treasure that the whole community can enjoy, she said.

“It’s so exciting for us, for this to finally come to fruition,” Richards said.

Clark Fine Art Services out of Boston -- which specializes in transporting and installing fine art -- recently took down the painting from the high area in the grand stairwell.

They then separated the painting from the frame.

Susan Jackson of Harvard Art will restore the frame in Harvard. She’ll treat the frame, and apply repairs to the damaged areas by around April.

The painting covered in plastic won’t leave the library until April because of the cold weather. It’s being kept in a warm stairwell.

“It would crack right away in the cold,” Noon said. “So we’re keeping it encased and secured to protect the paint.”

Once the weather warms up, the painting will head to Gianfranco Pocobene Studio in Malden. The painting restoration should be completed by the fall.

“We need to preserve these types of work for future generations,” Noon said.

To donate to the Pollard Memorial Library Foundation, email pollardmemorialfoundation@gmail.com or call 978-674-4120.

Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.