Ugo Mochi is not a household name. But his artwork is known and admired by many. Mochi was best known for his animal silhouettes. Created from paper with details to scale, these silhouettes are Mochi’s greatest contribution to art as well as to the study of the natural world. [UgoMochi.com, history section, accessed 2/1/17]
The New York Zoological Society’s (now the Wildlife Conservation Society) Bronx Zoo was a favorite spot for Mochi. He used Zoo animals when creating his most famous book, Hoofed Mammals of the World (1953). A few years after his death in 1977, Mochi’s daughters donated to the Zoo the 40 original plates used in the Hoofed Mammals book. WCS adapted some of his silhouettes in logos and exhibit graphics.
Over time, however, the plates began to deteriorate. Silhouettes became dislodged from their matting. The plates became dirty. An earlier Greater Hudson Heritage Network (GHHN) grant identified the issues facing these plates. And the WCS Archives, recognizing the importance and aesthetic value of these pieces, applied for and was awarded a grant from GHHN to restore most of them (30 of 40).
Conservator Paula Schrynemakers was brought in to do the delicate work of stabilizing the pieces and restoring them for long term preservation. Each piece required individualized treatment. Wheat paste was used to re-affix dislodged silhouettes. Surface cleaning was done to return the plates as close as possible back to their original beauty.
Even with Paula’s wonderful work, as she pointed out in her treatment analysis, “although they are not brittle, the silhouettes are extremely fragile.” As the WCS Archives moves forward with exhibition plans for various items in the Archives, we will be following her excellent suggestions for exhibiting these plates.
With the Mochi family’s permission, we have also digitized the images. You can check out the before and after pictures here.