Category Archives: Exterior Lacquer

September Project: Printed Film on Wood

Cradled Birth Wood
Finished design with Permalac top coat

Kathleen sent in this project:

A digital design was printed on film & transferred to a cradled birth wood panel. A top coat of Permalac was applied for longevity & protection. Swarovski crystals were used to accent the design. For exhibits & customer satisfaction the art needs to be archival & have uv protection from the environment.

What Do Joseph Pulitzer, Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, Ronald Reagan, and Lee Iacocca have in Common?

October 2016 – These distinguished gentlemen, and an army of others, each had a hand at one time or another with either the construction or renovation of Lady Liberty.  Different times, different circumstances, but the same outcomes.  Building or maintaining our National Symbol of Freedom.

In just about the entirety of planning, timing is everything.  Did you know that the beacon of hope that greeted immigrants to our great country was once painted? Had Permalac been around back then, maybe we’d have a shining copper Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. Timing.

In fact, the timing of the original plans wasn’t so good either for Lady Liberty, the Government of France or the United States Government.  The idea of “The Great Colossus”1 began in 1865, and it took ten years for sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi to be commissioned to lead the

project, with the Centennial of the Declaration of Independence as the planned ceremony, 1876.

Excuses, Reasons, Excuses

France and the USA were both under enormous financial strain at the time, and therefore creative means of fund raising became routine on both sides of the Atlantic.  It was agreed the US would be responsible for the location and the construction of the footing, and the French would cover the costs involved in shipping, handling and installation of the finished statue beyond its cost of creation.

In France, lotteries, public fees, entertainment events and other forms of public funding were utilized, while in

the US, theatrical events, art auctions, even prize fights were used, but in both countries, raising money at that time was not easy.

While all this money trouble occupied many citizen’s time, Bartholdi, the sculptor, sought out the assistance of the man that build the Eiffel Tower, Alexandre Gustave Eiffel2, for his insight into strustatue-of-libertyctural integrity.  The estimated delivery of Lady Liberty was slipping due to lack of funding, design concerns, and public opinion.

Joseph Pulitzer,3 through the editorial pages of his newspaper, “The World’, was direct and to the point regarding the lack of keen interest in the project by the American people.  He harshly criticized the wealthy for their withholding of some of their wealth toward this great national project, but he also admonished the middle class for their expectation of the wealthy and well-off handling the entire donation.  Both economic groups begrudgingly contributed towards that effort.Although long past the original plan, the project was finally completed. An excerpt describing the final steps of the installation of Lady Liberty:

“Architect Richard Morris Hunt designed the Statue of Liberty’s granite pedestal in 1884, donating his fee to help fund the Statue.  Financing for the pedestal was completed in August 1885, and pedestal construction was finished in April 1886. The Statue was completed in France in July 1884 and arrived in New York Harbor in June 1885 on board the French frigate “Isere.”

 In transit, the Statue was reduced to 350 individual pieces and packed in 214 crates. The Statue was reassembled on her new pedestal in four months’ time. On October 28, 1886, President Grover Cleveland oversaw the dedication of the Statue of Liberty in front of thousands of spectators. She was a centennial gift ten years late.

What! No Permalac?

Had Permalac been around near the turn of the 19th century into the 20th, Congress would not have appropriated $62,000 to paint her.  The public outcry was rabid.  Newspapers referred to the idea as sacrilegious, while others felt the fact the statue was turning green. Influential politicians pushed for painting the sculpture as a means of protecting the metal’s integrity, but the citizenry would hear none of it.

Had Permalac been around a hundred or so years ago, things would be different. Because the outer shell of the statue is thin, it still would have taken more than 30 million copper pennies to form the complete covering.  The weight of the metal, 3/32 of an inch4 is remarkably thin, but the green patina is actually nature’s protective coating.  Permalac EF could have been used on the exterior, and Permalac Black internally.

Move Time Forward

Bedloe’s Island, where Lady Liberty stands, didn’t have a name change until 1956, when it was changed to Liberty Island.  Both Bedloe’s and Ellis Island’s maintenance had changed hands over the years, from the Lighthouse Board to the D
epartment of War. Lady Liberty is positioned on a pedestal within Fort Wood, which was constructed for the War of 1812.  It later had a transfer of maintenance and management when both Ellis and Bedloe’s Islands were combined under the National Park Service in 1965. It maintains and oversees all aspects of the Islands to this day.
detail-headBy 1982, Lady Liberty was in much need of repairs.  President Ronald Reagan5  appointed the Chairman of the Chrysler Corporation, Lee Iacocca6,  to spearhead the $87 million public/private restoration funding for her upkeep.  The project swelled to more than $233 million, and, although controversy arose, Iacocca did the near impossible at the time.

Image Credit: Copper Development Association

Beacon of Hope

As we are a nation of immigrants, it is surprising how much consternation swirls about immigration today. Liberty Island, along with Ellis Island has welcomed immigrants with a symbol of freedom and hope.

While most immigrants entered the United States through New York Harbor (the most popular destination of steamship companies), others sailed into many ports such as Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, San Francisco, Savannah, Miami, and New Orleans. The great steamship companies like White Star, Red Star, Cunard and Hamburg-America played a significant role in the history of Ellis Island and immigration in general.

In conclusion

Ask metal artists what they find helps them the most to preserve their art and they’ll probably respond with something like “a metal sculpture’s best friends are Permalac Black and Permalac Clear.  Two great defenders of either patina or decorative preservative. I’m confident that IF Permalac was available when the statue was first constructed, reconstructed upon arrival to the US, and the subsequent renovations that have occurred since.

Keywords: Statue of Liberty, Permalac, Lady Liberty, Permalac EF, patina, metal preservation,

  1. The Great Colossus – Poet Emma Lazarus 1883 –
  3. Alexandre Gustave Eiffel –
  5. Ronald Reagan –
  6. Lee Iacocca –

The Muses are brought back to life

086LR[3]The Fountain of the Muses is a spectacular installation with 15 life-size bronze sculptures installed in a reflecting pool and fountain.  It is one of the most visited pieces of art at the Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet SC.   Over the years, however, it had taken a beating from UV, salt spray and wind borne sand. As a result the management of Brookgreen decided to drain the pool this past fall in order to give each sculpture in the assemblage a careful inspection.  At that point it was clear that immediate attention was called for.

History of the installation

The Muses were ancient Greek deities who inspired the highest artistic ambitions of mankind. This famous series of sculptures was created by Carl Milles in the early 1950’s. For a number of years it served as the decorative center piece of a 2nd floor restaurant in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Milles described the inspiration for the work as follows:

“Five of the eight figures in the pool have just been drinking the water from a legendary well that inspires artists to work and create. We see them rushing home filled with new ideas.  These concepts are represented by the objects they carry.

The Poet: a blue bird. The Architect: a newly formed column. The Musician: a curious instrument. The Painter: Flowers.  And the Sculptor: still reaching for his gift from the Gods.”

In 1984 it was decided the fountain could no longer stay at the Met.  The 300,000 lb. assemblage presented safety issues that couldn’t be solved.   It was then sent south and given new life at Brookgreen Gardens.  This 9,000 acre preserve of formal gardens, meadows, wetlands and wildlife preserves features exclusively representational sculpture and exhibits 1444 major works by the most celebrated American artists.  Naturally they are dedicated to the preservation of the sculpture collection. Which can be quite a challenge with the ultra-violet assault from the bright outdoor sun, and the constant salt spray and wind borne sand from the nearby Atlantic Ocean.

Once these forces begin to corrode the bronze surfaces of a sculpture, protective action must be taken while full restoration was still possible. Ted Monnich, a specialist in bronze restoration and preservation was called in to develop a plan with Robin Salmon, Brookgreen Garden’s curator. The three-day process they decided on started with washing down all the exposed bronze surfaces with a mild detergent mixed with a kaylating agent.  Next workers went over every square inch of each sculpture with reticulated foam pads and acetone to remove any remaining corrosion residue.

016LR[3]The art work was now returned to a condition that was close to its appearance when Milles finished it 60 years ago.  The key challenge now was to maintain this appearance as long as possible.   Protecting TheFountain of the Muses sculptures required a coating that would not alter the appearance of the original bronze appearance in any way.  At the same time they needed to block UV, salt spray, and wind borne sand from reaching the metal surface where abrading or corrosion could occur.002LR[3]

After researching a variety of alternatives they selected Permalac, an outdoor clearcoat lacquer made by Peacock laboratories in Philadelphia. This product offered the best UV blockage of any competitive coating considered.  At the same time Permalac is exceptionally durable, and doesn’t yellow with age.  Restoration experts like Ted Monnich also find Permalac’s high viscosity makes it easy to spray it with a thin mist which provides full coverage in a very thin layer.  Moreover, because Permalac cures in 10 minutes, applying second and third coats can take place shortly after a previous coat has been sprayed.  Plus Permalac is self leveling so any drips and small puddles can be removed by an additional quick spray of Permalac. Finally, Permalac will not cross link with the bronze substrate, even after years of service.  This makes a Permalac treatment completely reversible.  When re-treatment is indicated all a user has to do to remove Permalac is give the surface an acetone rubdown.

2013-09-25 10.48.02LR[3]For professionals charged with the care and maintenance of outdoor public sculpture and monuments this is a quick and easy restoration process that provides six to ten years of protection before further treatment needs to be considered.  Other professional curators may in time learn to prefer it to the traditional rubbed wax finished currently in wide use. Especially if they don’t want to spend days retreating public monuments and sculpture once a year.

For more information on  Brookgreen gardens contact  To find out more about Permalac or to purchase products contact or call Peacock Laboratories at 215-729-4400 and ask to talk to Jack Kerins