Conservation Corner


Caring for and preserving the permanent collection is fundamental to the Dubuque Museum of Art’s mission of providing the community a continuous source of high-quality artistic works. Along with the public’s desire to view these works comes the responsibility of ensuring their good, stable condition.

The purpose of the Museum’s Conservation Corner is to fund ongoing care and archival storage conditions for individual works in the collection. With the help of your donation, we can ensure these works are maintained to the quality conditions necessary for continued public viewing.

There are many ways to contribute, and each is greatly appreciated.

  • The list below features works in need of care. Adopt your favorite and have your name included in the label describing the work each time it is exhibited over the next 10 years.
  • Become a Friend of the Collection by making an annual donation of at least $100 for collection care. In acknowledgement of your pledge, your name will be listed on a Friend’s donor board in the Museum.
  • Contribute whatever amount is comfortable for collection care. Donations can be mailed or dropped in the Conservation Corner donation box at the Museum. Every dollar helps fund continuing efforts to conserve the permanent collection.

William E.L. Bunn (America, 1910-2009)
Dubuque III
Oil on composition board
Dubuque Art Association purchase, 1987.02.11

William E.L. Bunn was born in Muscatine, Iowa. He studied under Grant Wood at the University of Iowa. In March 1934, a call went out through President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal program for mural submissions for the new post office in downtown Dubuque. This painting is Bunn’s winning submission. Four Mississippi steamboats were named Dubuque. The third Dubuque was built in 1867 but destroyed by fire in 1876. Bunn’s mural is one of two that can be seen today in the 6th Street entrance of the post office, just across Washington Park from the museum.

Condition Assessment

There is a very heavy grime layer overall. Numerous scratches, white paint spots, and small paint chip losses are randomly scattered over the surface.

Treatment will involve surface cleaning to remove the grime layer. Removal of the white paint splatters and in-paint of damages as necessary.

Treatment estimate: $850

Wallace Leroy DeWolf (America, 1854-1930)
Mojave Desert
Oil on canvas
25 x 30 inches
Gift of Ross Crane and the artist (Oct 1917), 1987.01.73

Wallace Leroy DeWolf was a self-taught artist. He originally studied law and joined his father’s law firm in the late 19th century. He went on to become a successful businessman and real estate investor in his hometown of Chicago. While recovering from an illness in 1911, he taught himself to paint. By 1914 his work was being exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago. He was also an avid and erudite collector of prints and even taught himself printmaking. Eventually he traveled to the Southwest United States and became well-known for his desert landscapes. Throughout his life he was a generous donor and active trustee to cultural organizations in Chicago and Pasadena, California.

Condition Assessment

This is painted on a very coarse weave canvas. There is grime overall and a hole in the canvas with paint loss near the right edge.

Treatment would be the repair of the hole, filling and in-painting the paint loss as well as overall surface cleaning.  The frame has numerous losses – these will also be touched up.

Treatment estimate: $700.00


Charles Thwaits (or Thwaites) (America, 1904-2002)
Indian Head
c. 1950
Oil on canvas
23 7/8 x 19 7/8 inches
Presented to the Dubuque Art Association by Charles W. Thwaits, 87.02.88

Charles Thwaites was a Wisconsin-born painter and printmaker. In 1928,
he was director of the Dubuque Little Institute and taught art at the Dubuque Art Association. He was a WPA artist in Wisconsin in the 1930s but in the 1950s, after visiting New Mexico, Thwaites joined the Taos Moderns and moved to Taos in 1962.

Over the course of his career he did many notable portraits, including a series of the Taos Pueblo Indians.

Condition Assessment

The painting requires surface cleaning to remove grime. There are 4-5 areas of paint flake losses. These areas require consolidation to reattach loose paint. One area of cracking runs through the left side of the face and another is located between the mouth and chin.

The losses will be filled and inpainted.

Treatment would be performed by a professional painting conservator.


Adrian Dornbush (Holland, 1900-1970)
January Twilight
Oil on canvas
18 x 24 inches
Gift of Dorothy McDonald, 87.02.03

Adrian Dornbush was an artist and teacher in Dubuque in the late 1920s and a president of the Dubuque Art Association (precursor of the Dubuque Museum of Art). Dornbush was Director of the Stone City Art Colony that was founded by Grant Wood and ran for two summers in 1932 and 1933. He helped to bring Grant Wood to Dubuque in 1933 for a lecture that resulted in the purchase of Appraisal and Victorian Survival.

Condition Assessment

This painting is in poor condition. There is distortion in the canvas. The tacking edge on the right side of the painting is missing. There are damages and areas of paint loss at the edges. The painting has a discolored surface from grime and old varnish.

Treatment would be performed by a professional painting conservator.

The first step would be to flatten the canvas distortions. Next, the painting would be lined to a new linen canvas. Finally, the painting would be re-stretched. The surface cleaned to remove grime and old varnish. Paint losses would be filled. The damages would be in-painted and the painting would receive a final varnish coating.


Sheldon Parsons (America, 1866-1943)
Mountain Landscape in Autumn
Oil on board
15 1/2 x 18 1/2 inches
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. George L. and Dorothy McDonald, 87.02.02

Sheldon Parsons was born in Rochester, New York. He studied at the National Academy of Design with William Merritt Chase, Edgar Ward, and Will Low. From 1895 to 1912 he was a successful portrait artist in New York painting President McKinley and Susan B. Anthony among others. In 1912, Parsons moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico. His art was forever changed by the vivid colors and soft architecture of the Southwest. He was one of the earliest resident artists in the area and became the first director of the New Mexico Museum of Fine Art in 1918.

Condition Assessment

This painting needs surface cleaning to remove grime and a black scuff and drip in the sky.

Treatment would be performed by a professional painting conservator.