CAA/American Institute for Conservation Award for Distinction in Scholarship and Conservation
The CAA/American Institute for Conservation Award for Distinction in Scholarship and Conservation recognizes outstanding contributions by one or more persons who, individually or jointly, have enhanced understanding of art through the application of knowledge and experience in conservation, art history, and art. The joint award with AIC was first presented in 2016. (The CAA/AIC award was formerly known as the CAA/Heritage Preservation Award for Distinction in Scholarship and Conservation.)
E. Melanie Gifford’s work represents the highest caliber of research, publishing, lecturing, and teaching on the topic of analytical and art-historical research into the history of painting materials and techniques; her primary area of focus has been northern European art from 1400 to 1700. Melanie has had an outstanding career in both the classroom and in the museum. She has shared her wisdom with students ever since 1981, when she began teaching pigment microscopy to art conservation students at the University of Delaware. Melanie not only teaches important techniques for paint analysis but also instills in her students the thoughtful consideration and patience that is so critical to comprehending complex works of art.
Melanie’s museum career at the National Gallery of Art, where she serves as Research Conservator for Painting Technology, is equally remarkable. She works closely with curators and painting conservators to enlarge and enhance our understanding of how old master painters, particularly Early Netherlandish, Dutch and Flemish masters, created the extraordinary effects they achieved in their paintings. Her expertise, however, is recognized far beyond the Gallery. Melanie’s publications, ranging on artists from Broederlam to Heemskerck and van Goyen, are admired for her gifts for description and analysis, which give meaning to technique and elucidate a painter’s strategies, whether practical or artistic. As one of the world’s leading experts on Rembrandt’s painting techniques, she has been asked to serve on a number of international advisory committees focusing on this artist. Similarly, she is on the advisory committee for the restoration of Jan van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece.
Melanie has utilized her remarkable abilities, as well as her organizational and persuasive talents, to conduct overarching studies of artists’ techniques for a number of international loan exhibitions, among them those devoted to Jan van Goyen, Georges de la Tour, Gabriel Metsu, and Willem van Aelst. Her enlightening essays in these catalogues are models in which art-historical, scientific, and conservation ideas are seamlessly blended together to enrich our understanding of the artists’ works.
Jury: Joyce Hill Stoner, Winterthur/University of Delaware, chair; Brian Considine, J. Paul Getty Museum; and Ellen Pearlstein, University of California, Los Angeles.
Conservators at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, and, more recently, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum have all received the CAA/American Institute for Conservation Award. Independent scholars and conservators, such as Andrea Kirsch and Rustin S. Levenson (both 2001) and John Thorpe (2006) have also been honored. Perhaps the most international of CAA awards, recipients from institutions abroad include Paolo Cherchi Usai of the National Screen and Sound Archive in Australia (2005) and Ernst van de Wetering at the University of Amsterdam (2003).
Read a list of all winners of the CAA/American Institute for Conservation Award for Distinction in Scholarship and Conservation from 1991 to the present.