When is a piece of art a true treasure? Is it valuable because of the artist or because of the provenance of the art?
I have found that a true treasure can be defined for these reasons as well as another reason; to tell a story that is of timeless importance. At Frugal Framer we hear fascinating stories of the art we frame every day. Recently we had the pleasure of framing a portrait from the 1940’s. The impressionist style painting pictures Eva Sacks Lebby, the Great-Aunt of a customer. Eva (1903-1983) was a nurse with the Philadelphia School System until she joined the army at the start of World War II. Eva began her wartime career at Camp Croft in Spartanburg, South Carolina and ended her first year of service in North Africa with the 48th Surgical Hospital. Eva undoubtedly faced obstacles and dangers as she served her country. She was a part of the landing at Arzew, a port town occupied by German forces and located close to the strategic port city of Oran. In 1943, Eva was transferred to the 12th General Hospital with which she served in Italy.
It is in this period that Eva undoubtedly commissioned her portrait. The beautiful painting captures a pointed gaze, but is free of the wartime atmosphere she surely endured. Although the artist is not known and therefore the actual monetary value is unable to be specifically determined or appraised, preserving and displaying Eva’s portrait and her story is of definite historical and emotional value to her family. In addition to passing down the beautiful painting, Eva wrote many wartime letters home documenting her experience in the army unit, the relative merits of general hospitals and evacuation hospitals, descriptions of her on and off-duty uniforms, sight-seeing in Italy and discussions about romance and wartime relationships. Together with her portrait, the letters serve as a valuable reminder of the war-time contribution made by female members of the armed forces. Ernie Pyle, the Pulitzer Prize winning war correspondent mentioned Eva in his book, “Here Is Your War”, describing in length the medical team that came from Charlotte, N.C. and all they did for the troops in Africa. Eva’s niece conveyed to us that her aunt was a strong female presence in her life and that preserving and displaying the painting is a way to pay homage to Eva’s life and influence.
Eva's story is compelling and framing her portrait was a treat for us. The portrait came to us already in the lovely round frame. Eva's niece had the painting and frame restored by Michael Garone Antique Restoration, in Montclair, New Jersey in 2014. Because of the delicate nature of the painting and the frame (a paper maché creation), additional protection by framing was needed. We worked with the customer to find the perfect frame with the correct depth to house the framed painting. From there, using conservation materials such as acid free matting and UV protective glass to prohibit sun damage, we moved forward with the project. The following photographs show a bit of the process.
Many thanks go to Eva's family for allowing us to share Eva's portrait and her story. ~Jennifer Pearson, Frugal Framer