Conservation and Restoration

Our Studio policy of Conservation and Restoration is to treat each painting individually; there is no set formula of treatment, our first concern is to preserve the painting, carefully revealing the artist’s original intention and arresting any inherent deterioration.

We technically examine and document the painting before and during the conservation work. This might call for examination by stereoscopic microscope, infra red, X-ray and ultra-violet light, and paint analysis of minute paint particles.

Cleaning

The removal of an oxidised surface coating of varnish enables the original colours of the painting to reappear. A veil of obscuring brown varnish can not only change the colour perception of the painting but the flattening effect can diminish any sense of perspective in the composition.

Structural work

This can involve consolidation of flaking and cupping paint, this deterioration of the paint layer is one of the most common problems brought to the studio. Adhesive is introduced to re-adhere the raised edges of the paint layer back into the flat plane of the canvas.

Blisters of paint must be treated by consolidation with a suitable adhesive, usually isinglass and honey, to lay the blistered paint back onto the support without shattering the fragile brittle paint layer.

Tear repairs

Re-weaving and reattaching broken threads of the canvas which may also involve attaching a new lining laminate to the reverse of the canvas to give support to the damaged and weakened area, or replacing a decayed and perished existing lining.

Lining

Lining a painting involves glueing another material to the original to add strength and support. We don’t line paintings routinely but a weakened canvas is prone to tears and if a tear has occurred this can indicate that the canvas needs that extra reinforcement. Mark visited the late Gustav Berger (the inventor of Beva) in New York to observe his methods. We specialize in using Beva adhesive in a particular way that aids its future removal and we have innovative techniques to line large torn paintings.

Strip lining

If a lining is still holding well but has broken edges, we may only strip line the edges to ensure enough strength is in the fixing edge, so that when it is pulled tight to secure it on the stretcher, the edge will not tear. If the whole canvas is slightly weaker a stiffened loose lining can be attached to the stretcher to give support to the weakened canvas.

Panel Paintings

Panel paintings often consist of several planks of wood jointed and glued. The glue becomes desiccated and so the panel members become loose and detached and they react to humidity and warp in different directions causing complications to the whole painting. Often in the past ingenious wooden structures were attached to prevent this warping. Unfortunately, these so-called ‘cradles’ only exacerbate the problem. We are experienced in removing these complicated structures which need to be very carefully removed in certain sequences to prevent the tensions in the wood from splitting the painting.

Retouching

Retouching, more accurately called in-painting, is necessary to integrate defective areas in the paint layer to unify the whole painting. The level to which this retouching is taken is subject to our connoisseurship and knowledge of the artist’s work. The painting will be photographically recorded unretouched and we usually prefer to undertake matched retouching to enable the painting to be visually unified. However, there are variations on this decision which can be discussed with the owner. For example, large damages could be inpainted using the Italian method “tratteggio” – hatching coloured vertical strokes until the painting can be read again. This method of inpainting respects the original character. When there are numerous tiny losses these might just have a tonal filling to unify the picture. All the materials used in retouching are reversible: we use several synthetic resin media for different situations which are stable and reversible.

Works of art on paper

Although our specialism is European easel paintings, we are able to offer the conservation of works of art on paper (watercolour drawings, engravings and etchings).Our Associate is an Accredited Conservator with a wide knowledge of conservation in various media on paper supports. We usually begin by discussing the possible treatment with the client, obtain cost estimates and monitor the progress of the treatment, remounting and framing, with delivery back to the client.

Paintings going on loan

We regularly inspect and examine paintings on their way to an exhibition and provide condition reports, complete with photographic documentation. We also provide a personal courier service for works of art and can organise packing and crating.

Condition Surveys

We carry our condition surveys of paintings for public and private collections. This enables the Owner/Curator to establish a conservation priority list for future conservation treatment, and it is helpful in preparing financial budgets.

Disaster Planning

The studio has been involved in several flooding disasters notably the Kelham island Museum in Sheffield. In the event of a disaster we have equipment ready to deploy.

Associated frame conservation and restoration

We offer a conservation and restoration service for frames only associated with paintings in the studio for conservation. From repairing minor damage to replacement of loss of decoration and re-gessoing and gilding; different finishes can be achieved through toning to achieve the desired effect or to match any other existing frames in the same location.

Replacement frames

The style and quality of a frame are crucial to enhancing a painting and it’s worth taking especial care over them. We can supply and fit hand-made frames that are exactly right for each painting, replicating styles used from 1650 to the turn of the 21st century. Different finishes, shades and tones of gold or metal leaf mean that our framer can produce a huge range of effects.

During the varnish removal of "Mrs. Morison of Haddo" by Allan Ramsay

During the varnish removal of "Mrs. Morison of Haddo" by Allan Ramsay York Museum Trust

Example of cupping and flaking paint which if not consolidated will become more pronounced and eventually lead to a loss of paint

Paint blisters here seen on an 17th.Century panel painting

Repairing tear

Repair completed

Filled & Retouched

Canvas buckling at the edge can be an indication of a decayed canvas; striplining the inner edge can be a short term solution in conjunction with loose-lining

The photo above shows a panel being rejointed within our special jig which holds the whole painting in the desired position during glueing

Retouching Joseph Wright's "Orrery" Derby Museum Trust

Examples of bespoke gilded frames