(315) 685-8534 — Skaneateles, New York

Theater Curtains

Our special interest in treating over-sized paintings evolved to include the unique class of paintings referred to as Historic Painted Theater Curtains. From 1890 – 1940, before the advent of Radio and TV, every small town in the North East had a stage which served as a center for cultural and social events. Painted theatrical scenery was found in opera houses, Grange buildings, Town halls, and schools, and ranged in style from Grand Drapes, to advertising roll up curtains, to backdrops, to teasers and tormentors. They often had a scenic landscape in the center depicting far off places or a local favorite. Their construction materials were designed to be affordable and completed rapidly. Traveling vaudeville artists would come to town to sell advertisements to local businesses to finance the curtain, then perform in front of it when completed. They are created with water-based paint, without a ground applied directly on the curtain support fabric (typically cotton or muslin), which was made to be over-sized by sewing strips of cloth together. Many were unusual because the hardware, ropes and engineering, rolled upwards on a dowel or a corrugated drain pipe. The curtains repeated use took a toll on their condition over the years, leading to their removal and storage as they became unpresentable. The support fabrics become torn, creased, distended, warped, soiled, stained, brittle, and too fragile to support the curtains’ weight. The hanging boards, rigging, and roll up pipes are found damaged, or with missing components or lost entirely. We have had the pleasure of treating several painted curtains with grants and the assistance of volunteers. This helps lower the cost, ensures enough people are on hand for each corner, and teaches the caretakers how to preserve and handle the curtain as it continues to age. These three advertising style drapes we have treated also have historic advertisements of business in the region.