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James Penney, preliminary drawing for Memories of Marion County, 1941. charcoal and graphite on paper. 62” x 179”, Gift of Mary Ann Penney Touchton in honor of Sara Nicole Simons

James Penney Cartoon Conservation

The artist James Penney made this cartoon (or study) for a WPA era mural titled Memories of Marion County in 1941. The finalized mural, a commission for the US post office in Palmyra, Missouri, was completed and installed in 1942.

Donated to the USFCAM in 2014 by the artist’s niece Mary Ann Penney Touchton in honor of her daughter Sara Nicole Simons, this preliminary drawing underwent conservation during the first week in February 2016. Conservation of this drawing was made possible by a generous gift from David M. Touchton in memory of his son, D. Wayne Touchton. Both Mr. Touchton and his son Wayne are graduates of USF, having graduated in 1965 and 2008 respectively.

Conservator Laura Stirton Aust working on the Penney cartoon, February, 2016

Conservator Laura Stirton Aust working on the Penney cartoon with USFCAM staff, February, 2016

Between 1934 and 1943 the Treasury Section of Fine Art was founded to commission artwork for Federal Post Offices and Courthouses throughout the central and western United States. The stated goal for these murals was that they reflect upon unique regional attributes. Unlike other New Deal programs these mural contracts were based on national and regional competitions with individual artists submitting proposals. The Treasury section eventual awarded nearly 1,400 commissions as part of this program.

James Penney was born in St. Joseph Missouri in 1910. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 1931, then moved to New York City where he continued his studies at the Art Students League. During the 1930s and right upuntil the start of World War II, he completed a number of mural commissions throughout the West and Mid-West. After the war Penney continued his work as an artist but also became well know as an arts educator, teaching at Vassar, Munson-Williams-Proctor and Hamilton College. Along with murals that can still be found in many public buildings, his paintings are also in a number of private and public collections.

The conservation of this drawing by James Penney was completed by Laura Stirton Aust. Ms. Aust holds a Master of Science in Fine Art Conservation from the University of Delaware. She is the owner of ARTcare Inc., a company that across nearly three decades has provided fine art conservation and consulting services to both private and public collections.

As part of USFCAM’s ongoing Museum at Work series Ms. Aust discussed her approach to conservation of the drawing. The event was free and open to the public and held in USFCAM’s studio shop.

Museum at Work: Conservation Open Studio Event, February 10, 2016

Museum at Work: Conservation Open Studio Event, February 10, 2016