Monday, March 14, 2016

Portrait of Julia Tarrant Barron, a founder of Howard College, returns to Samford

Among the earliest proponents of a college for young men in Marion, Alabama, Julia Tarrant Barron (1805-1890) was instrumental in the foundation of Howard college.  She worked with Baptist leaders and donated time and funds to the establishment of the school, even donating the land upon which the school would be rebuilt after the campus was destroyed by fire in 1854. 

Julia after the recent preservation work.

Julia's granddaughter, Olive Barron Becker, was commissioned by then president of Howard College, Dr. John C. Dawson, to paint a portrait of Julia.  The portrait was presented to the school in December of 1945.

Fast forward about seventy years, and the portrait of Mrs. Barron (affectionately referred to as "Julia") needed an upgrade.  After consulting with professional conservators, Julia was sent to the Atlanta Art Conservation Center.  The portrait had been framed most recently (we're not sure when) with a plexiglass covering which had become scratched and warped over the years.  The painting itself needed to be professionally cleaned, too.

Julia before cleaning, without plexiglass.
Julia after.

Last week, Julia returned to campus, and the difference is amazing.  The colors of the painting are brighter and more saturated, and details that had been obscured by grime are now visible, such as her brown hair and green eyes. We're glad she's back and in better shape than ever.

Julia with Larry Shutts, art conservator for the Birmingham Museum of Art and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.

Julia is no longer covered in plexiglass, and "it will be important to find a way to display and house her securely," says Jennifer Taylor, director of the Special Collection and University Archives.

For more information about Julia Tarrant Barron, you can read a short biography from the Alabama Women's Hall of Fame, here.

To learn more about the portrait before the recent work, visit the Special Collection Treasures article, here.

None of this could have happened without the amazing librarian archivists in the Special Collection and University Archives. Thank you, Jennifer, Rachel, and Becky!

No comments: