William Redver Stark: Restoring the Sketchbooks

Different approaches have been tried over the years for conserving sketchbooks or bound volumes. For a long time, the works were simply detached in order to remove the binding. Nowadays, the historical and archival value of the binding is widely recognized. Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is no exception in this regard, and conservation treatments are now designed to preserve the work in its entirety, including the binding.

In a previous article, we introduced you to the work of soldier William Redver Stark. The sketchbooks that are part of the William Redver Stark fonds were never repaired or preserved, and were beginning to show signs of wear:

  • Tears and holes
  • Pages detached, missing or in the wrong order
  • Broken binding threads
  • Covers weakly bound to pages or completely detached

The sketchbooks therefore are undergoing various conservation treatments, undertaken by a team of LAC’s highly specialized conservators in the field of book conservation and restoration. These conservators worked with the collection managers and archivists to respect the integrity of Stark’s work, and to give him his full moment of glory.

The drawings and watercolours in this collection are in very good condition. Some even look like they might have been completed only a few days ago. It should be noted that the sketchbooks remained closed for nearly a hundred years, and that the pages were rarely exposed to air or light. Thus, to study a Stark work is to travel through time, to see the work of an artist exactly as it was created a hundred years ago, during one of the most deadly and crucial wars of our time.

In sum, the restoration work done by LAC‘s conservation and restoration team will make it possible to stabilize the condition of the sketchbooks in order to ensure that they will withstand the ravages of time, and will allow future generations to have access to an important part of our history.

Example of a required restauration treatment: the adhesive tape must be removed.

Example of a required restauration treatment: the adhesive tape must be removed.
© Library and Archives Canada

Another example of a required restauration treatment : the cover must be sewn back on.

Another example of a required restauration treatment : the cover must be sewn back on.
© Library and Archives Canada

See Also:

Summary of comments received in French between July 1, 2014 and September 30, 2014

  • A reader from Wimereux (France) thanks LAC for its work on the restauration of William Stark’s sketchbooks. It turns out that William Stark was stationed in Wimereux and made a lot of sketches of the surroundings. The reader was able to identify some of the sketches and he is offering his work to LAC.

4 thoughts on “William Redver Stark: Restoring the Sketchbooks

  1. Pingback: William Redver Stark, the Soldier and the Artist | Library and Archives Canada Blog

  2. Pingback: The William Redver Stark sketchbooks: the details | Library and Archives Canada Blog

  3. I am not sure who is on the other to read this but hello to whomever. In the early 2,000’s I was the interim minister at McNeill Memorial Church. Being close to McMaster University some of the church members were Mac professors, active and retired. I visited an elderly couple. I recall his field of expertise was fruit flies. When I entered the home I was confronted with a number of paintings. I appreciated one in particular. The lady told me that it was done by Bobby Bateman, better know now as Robert, when he was perhaps 18. His family had a cottage adjacent to their cottage.
    The lady upon perceiving my amateur interest in art said that she had something that she had discovered in a box handed down through the family. The box contained a folio of William Redver Starks fashion renderings and these notebooks. She said that she was planing to go to Staples or equivalent to do photo enlargements of the sketches, would I like to see them, she asked. Yes, and upon cursory examination I asked her not to touch them or proceed further with photocopy enlargement. I told her that these belonged in the National Archives. Could I make some inquiries. With some positive back and forth in the family I was allowed to contact the Archives. A gentleman whose name I cannot remember expressed interest and to make a long story short he and his wife came to Hamilton where I squired them around. There were many diverse portraits and paintings as well as the folios and the covers of Star Weekly. But the interest was on the sketch books. Soon, after family consultation, the books were off to Ottawa. The gentleman asked me if I wanted a museum quality print or two as a finders fee. I said yes although this was a an unexpected surprise. Shortly thereafter he had a heart attack and no longer looked after the discovery.
    As years passed I tried to find out about the books. I then found some scholarly articles and the publication of the full collection of the books. This pleased me and gave me some personal pride that a had an entry point part of the preservation of what I saw as an artistic treasure with an intense human side. As you know these sketches were not war but pastoral and engineering sketches of his work as a soldier.
    I am not writing to get those two museum quality reproductions. As an amateur artist my walls are filled to the limit of my wife’s tolerance as well as square footage available.I have shared with McMichael the existence of the sketch books with no reply and because of the McMaster connection I think their art gallery may be interested however I simply delight in the home of the books, their preservation, the intense study and the publication.
    I should add that stark knew the Group of Seven on a personal basis. He went into commercial art and the aforementioned Star Weekly covers.
    Thank you for your time.

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