Essex County News

The Path to Restoration: Two Works by Famed Millburn Painter Brought Back to Life

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“Around the Fire” and “Mother and Children in a Meadow" hanging in the Millburn Free Public Library. Credits: Cathy Harvey
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Film Producer Laraine Brennan Barach, Chairperson of the Advisory Committee Credits: Cathy Harvey
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Director David Koh and Producer Laraine Brennan Barach Credits: Cathy Harvey
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Michael Banick, Millburn Free Public Library Director Credits: Cathy Harvey
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MILLBURN, NJ - The Millburn-Short Hills Advisory Committee presented the film premiere of a documentary entitled “Leaving an Impression” at the Millburn Free Public Library on Friday evening. The documentary, produced by Millburn resident Laraine Brennan Barach, Chairperson of the Advisory Committee, and filmed and directed by Millburn High School graduates Emma Quong and David Koh, tells the story of the restoration of two paintings by Edward Dufner, which have long hung in the Millburn Library. Mr. Dufner (1872-1957), a noted American Impressionist and member of the National Academy, lived in Short Hills from about 1900 until his death. The paintings are “Around the Fire” and “Mother and Children in a Meadow.”

Director of the Township Library, Michael Banick, believes that the town has owned the two paintings from the 1950s when they were gifted to the town. In November 2017, the two paintings were sent out for professional restoration. The process of restoring, reframing, and installing the paintings is documented in the film.

Brennan Barach, the producer of the film and a strong supporter of the art and film programs at Milburn High School, describes the Dufner paintings as “night and day, mirror images of each other, which show children and adults interacting outdoors. They show a universal message of peacefulness.” Emma Quong is a 2015 graduate of Millburn High School where she participated in the AP Studio Art program. She is a 2018 University Scholars graduate of NYU with a B.S. in Media, Culture and Communications and now works at UNICEF USA in public relations and entertainment marketing.  David Koh graduated from Millburn High School in 2009 and received a B.F.A. in Film and T.V. Production from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. He currently works with Through the Lens Entertainment, Inc. (TTL), a production and IP development company. Mr. Koh met Ms. Brennan Barach when he was a junior at MHS and she reached out to him after viewing his photography work in his AP Art class. He describes her as a “mentor” and she recruited him to film this documentary.

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The restoration process took 10 months and was accomplished by John Powell and Amy Sokoloff of Chelsea Restoration Associates, which specializes in restoration and conservation of fine oil paintings. During their partnership, Powell and Sokoloff have treated as many as 10,000 paintings from Old Master to Minimalism. They had worked on other Dufner paintings, but never any of such a large scale as the two subject paintings. Powell states that these paintings “cleaned very well.” The restored paintings were then framed by Nicholas F. Rizzo Fine Arts in Chatham. The choosing of the frames was a collaboration of the Rizzo company, Chelsea Restoration Associates, and Ms. Brennan Barach. The framed paintings were then installed in their place of permanence in the main room of the Millburn Free Public Library.

The Millburn-Short Hills Art Advisory Committee was begun in 1998 and is involved in advising and assisting in the restoration of the Township’s over 200-piece art collection, in curating art exhibits for Millburn artists, in annually hosting the Millburn-Short Hills Art Scholarship, and in presenting the six-week Film Festival at the Millburn Library.

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