Restoration & Conservation
Where to Begin:
We document the entire conservation process from beginning to end.
When you’re painting arrives in the studio; brought in by you, collected by us, or delivered by mail, it is logged in to our system. Each work is photographed, given an inventory label and then general details like size and basic condition are recorded.
After the initial evaluation and login, the painting is examined in more detail and to help formulate a detailed condition assessment.
We have a number of tools and techniques to assist us in our diagnosis. We utilize various forms lighting from natural and LED to ultraviolet to more advanced equipment such as infrared and high powered digital magnification.
These tools allow us to provide our clients with the most accurate assessment possible which in turn allow us to provide the most accurate estimate and treatment proposal.
Our assessments are divided into three categories or departments (cleaning, structural, and inpainting) Each department handles a different part of the proposed treatment. After a proposal has been accepted. The conservation process can begin.
Generally speaking, cleaning is where the restoration process begins. On occasion, a painting may require stabilization prior to cleaning as the paint layer is too weak to allow it to be cleaned safely. Depending on the age and the environment, a painting can accumulate years of dirt, or grime and varnishes can darken and discolor. Most paintings of a certain age have some degree of dirt and discoloration and many have had some degree of restoration or repair. Cleaning is generally done in layers, gently cleaning a layer at a time.
The top most layers of dirt and grime are often cleaned with a diluted restoration detergent. Subsequent varnish layers can be cleaned with varying array of solvents, the choice of which is often dependent on the age and type of varnish on the surface. As noted previously, many paintings of a certain age can have some form of prior restoration repair which can often be removed during the cleaning process. To be redone more accurately and professionally later in the campaign.
Our structural department treats any issues related to the stability of the painting, i.e. the paint layer and or its support. Depending on the problem, we have a range of different consolidates and adhesives at our disposal. These can be used in different ways and a different times in the structural process to help secure and stabilize the painting.
As previously mentioned, certain paintings may require structural attention prior to cleaning as they are simply too fragile or unstable. Some may even require onsite stabilization prior to arriving into our studio. Among the more commonly treated condition problems are those related to weak unstable paint, cracking, cupping, or even more obvious external damages like scratches, tears, or punctures. These can require stabilization from the front and many times require further treatment from the back.
Modern conservation is concerned and focused on the reversibility of any conservation campaign. As an example, a painting with a puncture or a work with severe cracking may require a patch or lining canvas to stabilize. The material we use for patching and lining (bonding a support canvas to original canvas) is a heat activated material known as Ethyl Vinyl acetate also known as BEVA. This material is applied under light heat and pressure to apply and simply reheated if removal is required.
Once cleaned and stabilized, most (but not all) a paintings receive an isolating varnish. Not only will the varnish layer protect the painting and liven the colors but it is also good conservation practice. Any inpainting will then be above or on top of the aforementioned varnish layer. Should the painting ever require cleaning in the distant future, it will make it much easier for the dirt and varnish layers as well as the restoration to be removed.
Inpainting is often utilized to address areas of loss, holes, stains, or large remaining stress cracks. Any such areas will often require filling to bring loss area up to the same plane as the surrounding paint.
When done properly, neither fill nor retouch will conceal areas of original paint. When areas of original paint are concealed by restoration this is known as overpainting. Overpaint generally good indicator of poor restoration.
Once and losses and cracks are filled, a photograph is taken known as an “Actual state photograph”. This photograph will clearly show any losses and or underlying damage prior to inpainting.
At this point in the process, the fill is given a base color known as a “block in” color. Often it is similar to the artist’s base or undercolor. Once “blocked in”, a more precise color and texture can be achieved.
After the inpainting and final varnishing is completed, the painting will again be photographed and archived. If necessary the painting can be placed back in its frame and is then ready to be shipped, collected, or delivered back to you or your client. Please let us know should you have any questions about any of our treatments or proposals.
*Please note, All our conservation estimates are complimentary, please use our contact page to reach us and to upload images of your work of art.
We transport paintings to and from the following destinations:
Boston: Weekly Thursday pickup and delivery in and around the Boston area.
Portland: Please inquire about schedule.
New York: Please inquire about schedule.
Seacoast MA, NH, and ME: Weekly pickup and delivery.
*other local destinations by arrangement.