Jo Davidson Portrait Bust Conservation

By Angela Stangenberg & Michael Heck

The bronze bust of Franklin D. Roosevelt was created by Polich Tallix, a foundry in Beacon, NY, from a portrait sculpture made by American artist Jo Davidson in 1933. Polich Tallix has been helping artists realize their visions since 1968, including iconic works of art by Willem de Kooning, Roy Lichtenstein, and Tom Otterness.

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One of the most important services that Polich Tallix performs is maintenance and restoration of bronze monuments throughout the United States. All bronze sculptures require regular care, and Four Freedoms Park’s FDR is no different.

Recently, Chip Shwartz of Polich Tallix came to the Park to perform conservation maintenance on the Jo Davidson portrait bust. “I’m not seeing any damage,” Chip explained. “As long as you keep a solid layer of wax on there, it stays protected.”

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Cleaning the bust is the first step. Chip uses regular detergent and water to scrub off any dirt or particles that may have become affixed to the outer-most layer of protective wax. “Then I’ll use solvents to remove some of the waxes.”

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IMG_9534_2400 2017-05-09 Polich Tallix Blow Torch.JPG

To apply a new outer layer of wax, Chip heats up the bronze and applies the new wax while the sculpture is still warm. “Once the wax is applied and dried, I’ll buff it out and it’ll look good as new.”

Jo Davidson’s FDR isn’t the only sculpture maintained by Polich Tallix and Chip Schwartz that’s visible from Four Freedoms Park. Take a look at the restoration process of the United Nations’ Sphere Within Sphere (Sfera con sfera) by Arnaldo Pomodoro here