Collaboration and Connections: Postprints of the AICCM Paper, Books and Photographic Materials Special Interest Group Symposium, Sydney 1-3 April 2004, pp. 115-124
‘Portrait of Diddy’ is a pastel and charcoal drawing on paper by the renowned Australian artist Grace Cossington Smith (1892-1984). The work dates from circa 1920 and is in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia (NGA). It has never been on display because of its fragile condition. An exhibition of the artist’s work is to be held at the NGA in 2005 with this work being a significant highlight. Research into the work has shed light on some interesting connections, notably the relationship between the sitter and the artist. The portrait features the artist’s favourite younger sister, Charlotte, known to the family as ‘Diddy’. Diddy was a recurring source of inspiration for her artist sister and appears frequently in Cossington Smith’s oeuvre, particularly the extensive sketchbook collection of the NGA. The tricky conservation treatment demanded a collaborative approach from the paper conservation team. This was supported by close discussion with the Curatorial department to outline treatment limitations and potential achievements. The paper support was severely degraded, corresponding to particular coloured areas of the image. Scientific collaboration with the University of Canberra was necessary to determine the complexity of the media layer on the paper before the exact cause of deterioration could be established. Initial investigations began in 1998 with analysis and treatment being carried out in 2003-04. This paper will discuss the relationship between artist and sitter, outline analysis, research and the conservation treatment of this work.