History Nebraska Blog

Painting Nebraska Life

March is Women’s History Month so we’re highlighting mid-20th century Nebraska artist, Sara Green.  The Ford Center has treated two of her paintings over the years.

Sara Green was born in Beatrice, Nebraska, in 1908.   She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a teaching certificate from the University of Nebraska and later taught there.  She also taught art at Nebraska Wesleyan in the 1930s.  Green spent six weeks at the Art Institute of Chicago studying oil painting under landscape artist Charles Wilmovsky.  She later received a diploma from the Federal Art School of Minneapolis, which was a correspondence school for training in illustration and cartooning, founded in 1914 as a branch of the Bureau of Engraving.

During the Great Depression, Green was employed by the Civil Works Administration’s Public Work of Art Program (PWAP), the first public art program of the New Deal.   The program funded temporary minimum wage employment programs during 1933 - 34. Sara Green was the only Nebraska artist who had a painting accepted for the Civil Works Administrations art exhibit in Washington. Her watercolor "Winter Blizzard" was chosen for the exhibition.


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Before treatment  photo of “Oregon Trail” by Sara Green. 

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After treatment photo of “Oregon Trail” by Sara Green. 

Oregon Trail painting below belongs to History Nebraska.  The scene depicts a covered wagon train with people walking beside wagons and on horseback and Chimney Rock is in the background. The work from 1934, is an unvarnished oil painting on canvas.  The canvas had a sharp indent in the upper right corner and a small bulge in the lower right center.  These were flattened under weights and moistened blotting paper.  The upper right dent was further flattened using a local suction platter and vacuum.  The flaking paint around the small hole by the top margin was consolidated with an appropriate adhesive, and the area was filled with gesso.  The painting was cleaned with a dilute cleaning solution on cotton swabs.  The filled loss was retouched with pigments a resin.  During treatment, it was noted that the landscape appears to have been painted over a vertical still life.  Parts of this earlier composition are exposed along the bottom tacking margin of the canvas.

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Detail of the hole at the top edge of the painting 

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After it was filled and inpainted 

The second painting is entitled “Children’s Blizzard of ‘88”, and belongs to Beatrice Public Library.  The painting depicts a woman and five children struggling against the snow and wind of a blizzard.  Following an unseasonably warm winter day, on January 12, 1888, a blizzard hit suddenly in the middle of the day.  Men were working in fields and children had been playing outdoors when temperatures suddenly dropped and white-out conditions soon occurred.  The most harrowing tales were of the many school children away from home in tiny one-room school houses, with no food and little fuel. The painting depicts the heroism displayed by a number of school teachers, and their older pupils, in caring for the young children through the storm to safety.

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Before treatment photo of “Children’s Blizzard of ’88” by Sara Green.  Note the small puncture hole in the upper right corner

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After treatment photo of “Children’s Blizzard of ’88” by Sara Green.  

The painting is owned by the Beatrice Public Library.  The canvas was brittle and torn in a few places along the edges.  The painting had become slack on its stretcher and as a result, the canvas was undulating.  The ground layer had flaked away in a few spots where the canvas turns over the stretcher edge.  Accumulated grime had resulted in overall darkening of the painting.  Additionally, there was a small puncture from the front side which had resulted in some paint loss in the upper right corner.

After the paining was unframed, the flaking paint around puncture hole in upper right corner was consolidated to prevent further flaking of the broken paint.  The area around puncture was flattened with blotting paper and weights. The hole was mended from the back with a heat-set adhesive and Japanese tissue paper, as were the tears long the edges of the canvas. The stretcher was keyed out to adjust the canvas tension and reduce planar distortions and the painting was cleaned.  The losses by the puncture were filled and retouched with pigment in resin.

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