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Conservator cleaning painting

The Guildhall Art Gallery has a small team of trained and experienced paintings and frames conservators who care for and preserve the works in the collection.

Preventive conservation

An important part of the conservators' work is to monitor and record the condition of the paintings and their frames while on display, in storage, or on loan, and to take steps to prevent future deterioration. Conservation framing ensures that the paintings are suitably fitted in their frames. Backboards protect the paintings from damage by accident and from the environment, and where possible paintings are glazed. The environment can have an important effect on the condition of works of art so light, temperature and relative humidity levels are recorded and controlled.

Examination and analysis

Before any treatment is carried out the work is carefully examined and recommendations for treatment are discussed with curators. In the Gallery's conservation studios conservators are able to examine works in infra red and ultra violet light and under a stereo microscope. If necessary they can analyse tiny samples from the paintings to find out more about the materials and techniques used by the artist or to resolve problems encountered during treatment.

Conservation treatments

All conservation treatments are fully do​cumented and photographed. Treatment of the paintings can include removing discoloured varnish, consolidating loose paint, filling and retouching losses, and re-varnishing. Where the painting support is weak or damaged, treatment may involve the repair of tears and splits or the addition of extra support. Treatment of the frame may require the removal of later surface coatings, fixing flaking gilding, and replacing ornamentation. The conservation of paintings and frames can take many months, and requires extensive practical skills as well as an in-depth knowledge of the original materials and methods used.​

Frame corner

Frames

We are fortunate to have a dedicated frames workshop on site. The highly specialised frames conservators treat, repair and clean the frames in the collection. For the exhibition 'Sir John Gilbert: Art and Imagination in the Victorian Age', the team made frames from scratch based on 19th century designs and techniques, as well as restoring originals.

My First Sermon

Loans

A large part of the conservators' work involves preparing paintings for loan. This involves assessing the paintings and documenting their condition, carrying out any necessary treatment, and may include accompanying the works as courier while they are travelling to exhibitions in other museums and galleries around the world.​

When we lend items to exhibitions at home and abroad, we take the opportunity to rehang our walls. This means that we are constantly preparing works in storage to make them suitable for display and rethinking the ways in which we can bring Collection items back into the public eye. The lending process is vital to keep works of art circulating and to give people a chance to see new things.

Published:
07 August 2012
Last Modified:
31 July 2015

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