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To ready Paula Modersohn-Becker's "Self Portrait" (1907) for MoMA's reopening in October, conservator Diana Hartman tackles the question of how to repair holes in the painting’s canvas. She figures out that a curved needle typically used in eye surgery might allow her to avoid removing the work from its original stretcher. And her inventiveness doesn’t end there: Using an adhesive made from a sturgeon bladder, she secures linen thread to the needle to darn the pieces back together with the help of a microscope. Hartman shows how she makes unobtrusive repairs, to keep viewers’ gaze focused on the portrait itself. “Just by doing this treatment,” Hartman says, “we’ve given a breath of fresh air to this painting.”
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