History Nebraska Blog

Ford Center and International Cat Day

August 8th was International Cat Day.  Here at the Ford Center, we’re cat people.  Just ask Jonesy, Ripley, Tyrion, Ned, Floof and Jasper.  So in honor of all things feline, here is a post about a cat painting that was recently treated in the Paintings Lab and belongs to the Nebraska History Museum.

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Jonesy and Ripley, cats of Megan Griffiths, Conservation Technician

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Tyrion and Ned, cats of Hilary LeFevere, Paper Conservator

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Floof, cat of Rebecca Cashman, Objects Conservator

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Jasper, cat of Vonnda Shaw, Senior Conservation Technician

The painting, “Portrait of Julie Cat”, is by Nebraska artist Elizabeth Dolan.  Dolan studied art at the University of Nebraska in the 1890s and later at the Art Institute of Chicago in the 1910s.  Dolan eventually studied fresco painting in France.  In 1926, she was commissioned to paint a series of Frescos in Morrill Hall at the University of Nebraska.  Her painting on canvas, “Spirit of the Prairie” hangs in the Nebraska capital building. 

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[2021.006.02 BT Julie Cat]
Portrait of Julie Cat, before treatment

The painting showcased here was commissioned by Ida Anderson in 1942. The cat, Julie, was owned by Josephine Sherman. Ida lived in the Dr. L.A. and Josephine Sherman house at 1234 J Street in Lincoln for eight years. Dr. Sherman was Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Nebraska. Ida donated the painting to NSHS (now History Nebraska) in 1962.

The painting is an oil on canvas but unusually, is mounted in a matboard window mat.  And the painting is unvarnished.  It is signed in the lower left corner: DOLAN. 

The painting was in good condition, but the matboard in which the painting was housed was acidic and had discolored.  The painting had also accumulated dirt and grime over the years.

In order to treat the painting, it was removed from the acidic backing and overmat.  It was surface cleaned to remove the grime and placed in a new, acid-free, lignin-free window mat.  Unfortunately, the after treatment photos of the painting look the same as the before, but the painting is in better housing and more stable than before.

Now Julie Cat’s portrait will be preserved for cat fanciers for years to come.  If you have any cat drawings, prints, paintings, photos or figurines that need treatment, contact the Ford Conservation Center.

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